Voters, not the Legislature, should decide whether the state should add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination statutes, a pair of Republican legislators said Thursday night.
State Rep. Lynn Schindler, of Spokane Valley, and state Sen. Brad Benson, of Spokane, urged about two dozen people to work with their churches to make a final push for signatures for Referendum 65, a ballot measure that would repeal a law passed and signed this year. H.B. 2661 added sexual orientation to other “protected classes” from discrimination such as gender, race, religion and disability.
Benson argued that there is no statistical proof that homosexuals suffer from discrimination in employment, education or housing, but the statute is so vague it will spawn lawsuits for years. The bill passed, he contended, “because many legislators didn’t want to be labeled a bigot.”
Schindler told people in the crowd they needed to get out of their chairs and get to work. But they should stick to the legal questions about the law and “voice opinions with respect” to avoid being accused of hate speech.
“It has nothing to do with hatred of the person,” Schindler said. “We have the right to say (homosexuality) is wrong, that it is not good for the family.”
Supporters of Referendum 65 have a big push in the final three weeks before signatures are due.
This weekend, churches around the state will take part in “Referendum Sunday,” during which they will have petitions available for signing or for parishioners to take with them to gather more signatures and return on May 28. Churches have also been sent a six-minute DVD from “Sound the Alarm,” an Edmonds, Wash.-based group that believes the change in the law is not really about discrimination but “part of a systematic effort to normalize homosexuality and to take us one dramatic step closer to same-sex marriage and the silencing of our pulpits.”
Jacinta Tegman, executive director of Sound the Alarm, said petitions and the DVD have been sent to some 5,400 churches around the state by the group, which was started about two years ago as a “pastor-to-pastor” movement for prayer, repentance and united action.
“Referendum 65 is not our prime reason for existence,” Tegman said, but the petition drive falls under the category of united action.
Some 100 churches in Spokane, and as many as 150 throughout Eastern Washington, are expected to take part in Referendum Sunday, according representatives of the Greater Spokane Evangelical Association, which is supporting the campaign.
Also on Sunday, a group that supports the law that added sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination statutes – and thus opposes Referendum 65 – will hold a block party to discuss the issue in Spokane’s Peaceful Valley.
Inland Northwest Equality will mix a discussion of lesbian, gay and transgender issues with a barbecue and potluck at 1 p.m. at 1603 W. Clarke.
Tim Eyman, the referendum’s chief sponsor, said it was his standard policy not to estimate how many of the needed 112,440 signatures have been collected at this point in the campaign.
“We’re making good progress but we’re certainly not there yet,” he said, adding his chances of qualifying for the ballot at 50-50.
Tegman said Sound the Alarm is “cautiously optimistic” the referendum will qualify for the ballot. The group sent petitions and DVDs to some 5,400 churches statewide, she said, and had “fabulous response.”
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