Social conservatives are again pushing for a ban on same-sex marriage, restrictions on abortion and other social legislation that so far has failed in the Legislature despite Republican control of both houses.
Activists said Thursday they have the green light from House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, and Senate Majority Leader Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue.
A critic called the agenda “an attack on families” - and said it could backfire and cost Republicans their legislative majorities.
Members of the newly formed Conservative Caucus, backed by a coalition of activist groups, said they will try to persuade lawmakers to let voters decide two bills that Democratic Gov. Gary Locke has said he’d veto: A ban on gay marriages and on the late-term abortion procedure that foes call “partial-birth” abortion.
“The time has come to put principle above politics,” said Bob Larimer, director of the Vancouverbased Washington for Traditional Values. “While some legislators may fear ‘divisive’ issues, it is simply not acceptable to ignore threats to our culture.”
Thirteen Republican legislators, none in top leadership, attended a conference to outline the agenda.
They said they’ll get around Locke’s certain veto on the same-sex marriage bill and the “partial-birth” abortion ban by sending them to the November ballot. They said they may try the same tactic with other bills as well.
Locke vetoed a gay marriage bill last year and has said he won’t approve restrictions on abortion rights.
“He will continue to oppose (anti-gay rights) bills that are divisive and discriminatory,” said Locke’s communications director, Marylou Flynn. “And a decision on abortion is something that should be left to a woman and her doctor. It is a personal and private decision.”
Ballard and McDonald confirmed that they’ll back the gay-marriage ban and abortion bills. McDonald is a cosponsor of the parental notification measure. But they said it would be up to sponsors to round up the votes before floor action is scheduled on the social issues.
A bipartisan group of abortion-rights supporters also has formed and recently held a strategy session at the home of Rep. Mary Skinner, R-Yakima.
In presentations Thursday, foes of “partial-birth” abortion, including Reps. Mark Sterk, R-Spokane Valley, and John Koster, R-Monroe, called the procedure infanticide.
“We don’t even treat baby animals this brutally,” said Kari Karlson of Youth Action Coalition in Lynden.
Rep. Bill Thompson, R-Everett, a primary sponsor of the gay-marriage ban, called homosexuality a matter of choice.
“Homosexuality is not a lifestyle; it is a death-style,” he said.
He said gays “don’t need help getting married,” but instead reprogramming at a clinic that can make them straight.
Larimer said the 60-40 defeat last fall of a gay-rights initiative on job discrimination probably reflects broad public support for the gaymarriage ban, too.
Lawmakers attending the events were Sens. Harold Hochstatter of Moses Lake, Val Stevens of Arlington, and Dan Swecker of Rochester, and Reps. Joyce Mulliken of Ephrata, Mike Sherstad of Kenmore, Bill Backlund of Redmond, Jim Dunn of Vancouver, Duane Sommers of Spokane, Bob Sump of Republic, Kathy Lambert of Woodinville, Koster, Sterk and Thompson.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ON THE AGENDA GOP social conservatives say they push for legislation to: Require advance parental notification before a minor gets an abortion. Ban domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples, including married student housing at the University of Washington. Adopt Initiative 200 to roll back preferences for women and minorities in government hiring, contracting and college admission. Allow parents to withdraw their kids from public school if they have a moral objection to methods and curriculum. End Washington’s no-fault divorce system. Require reading teachers to use the phonics method.