The Washington State senate on Thursday rejected the gay civil rights bill by one vote, 25-24.
The legislation--a longtime goal of the state's politically active gay community--appeared dead earlier this month when a senate majority sent it to the judiciary committee, where it was bottled up as a key deadline came and went. On Thursday, the senate narrowly approved a procedural move by Democrats to exempt the measure from the cutoff and allow it to come up for a vote. Senators also voted to pull the bill, House Bill 1515, from the judiciary committee so it could be debated by the full senate.
Senators on both sides of the aisle spoke passionately about the bill, which would have protected gay and lesbian citizens in housing, employment, and public accommodation.
Democratic senator Tim Sheldon, who originally supported the movement of the bill from committee to the floor, voted against the bill because he says there is a wide discrepancy of support for the legislation across the state. Democratic senator Adam Kline and many other Democrats say that the real discrepancy is that gay and lesbian citizens are not included in civil rights protection.
Meanwhile, Seattle's The Stranger newspaper reported that software giant Microsoft last month withdrew its support for the house version of the gay rights bill after it caved to pressure from a suburban megachurch. The newspaper reported that antigay pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond "met with a senior Microsoft executive in February and threatened to organize a national boycott of the company's products if it did not change its stance on the legislation."
Gov. Christine Gregoire said she was disappointed that the measure failed. "I remain committed to ending discrimination, and I urge all my fellow citizens to do all we can, individually and as a community, to make Washington a safe and welcoming place for all people to live and work," she said in a written statement.
Rep. Ed Murray, the prime sponsor for the bill and one of four gay state lawmakers, will likely reintroduce this bill next year. (AP, with Sirius OutQ News)