More than 1,000
gay rights supporters rallied Monday on the Washington
State capitol steps, calling for passage of a gay civil
rights bill that appears to have sufficient support
this year after nearly 30 years of failure in the
Wearing "I'm for Equality" buttons and carrying
signs that read "Equality for All of God's Children,"
supporters listened to lawmakers and religious leaders
speak in favor of the measure that would add sexual
orientation to the list of characteristics protected by a
state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment,
and insurance. Sixteen states have extended similar
protections to gays.
"We are on the brink of doing something truly
remarkable," Gov. Christine Gregoire told the cheering
crowd. "Finally, after far too many years, the state
is going to take a stand to say that gay and lesbian
individuals living in our great state have the right to be
valued and considered to be as worthy as any other citizen."
The measure passed the house on Friday and was
expected to be up for a vote in the senate this week.
The measure failed by one vote in the senate last
year. Supporters are more hopeful this year because Sen.
Bill Finkbeiner, a Republican from Kirkland, announced
earlier this month that he would switch his vote to
yes, all but assuring its passage.
Rep. Fred Jarrett, a Mercer Island Republican,
attended the rally with his lesbian daughter,
Catherine, and her partner. Jarrett was one of six
Republicans in the house who voted to support the measure.
"I come from a party that got its start in the first
great civil rights movement in this country over 150
years ago. I believe our party is still on the side of
civil rights, and I'm sorry that many of my colleagues do
not share that," he told the crowd. "We need to be
sure that we always do what Matthew 7:12 suggested,
commanded us to do. To do unto others the way we would
expect them to do unto us."
Sean Kelley said he and his wife, Leslie,
brought their 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter
to the rally because they felt unsettled by the
measure's failure last year. "As parents we wanted to show
our kids how this process needs to work, to be
citizens, to not stand by," Kelley said. "We
fundamentally believe, as Christians, that everyone is equal."
While most of the lawmakers focused solely on
the gay rights bill, many of the other speakers,
including Democratic representative Ed Murray,
called for support of same-sex marriage, an issue currently
under consideration by the state supreme court. "Our
struggle for civil rights and for marriage equality
has reached a historic moment," said Murray, one of
four openly gay lawmakers in the legislature. Murray has
been the primary sponsor of the gay rights bill for 11 years.
The religious leaders at the rally included a
minister, a rabbi, and a Sufi Muslim cleric, who all
called for allowing gays and lesbians to marry. "Gays
and lesbians are children of God, simply with a
different orientation," said the Reverend Jamal Rahman, a
Sufi Muslim cleric from Interfaith Community Church in
Seattle. "When we deny them marriage rights, among
other rights, we are denying them their basic
spiritual rights. This is grossly unjust."
At an earlier meeting with reporters, Gregoire
would not offer her position on same-sex marriage,
saying it wasn't appropriate for her to comment while
the case was still before the high court. "I'm going to
await the court and its decision and then decide where our
state should go," she said.
Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor who is chairman
of the Faith and Freedom Network, an organization that
opposes both the civil rights bill and same-sex
marriage, said that the religious groups at the rally did
not represent the true reading of the Bible. "It's not
a question of love or hate, it's a question of moral
behavior," he said. "The political agenda is
normalizing homosexual behavior by putting legal
approval on it."
Fuiten said that his organization has bought ads
in several small community papers to encourage
senators to vote against the bill. "We haven't given
up," he said. "I'm doing everything I can to block