Wednesday, February 01, 2006

17 Down And 33 To Go

Washington state became the 17th state in the country to enact a civil rights law prohibiting the discrimination of persons based upon sexual orientation after Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill sent to her by the state legislature yesterday. Discrimination includes employment, housing, insurance and credit. Because the legislation also defines "sexual orientation" to include "gender identity," Washington also becomes the 7th state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity as well.

The law is scheduled to take effect on June 1; however, an anti-gay Christian hate group is circulating petitions to hold a referendum this fall to repeal the newly enacted law. If the group obtains enough signatures to get it on the ballot, the law will not take effect unless the voter initiative is voted down in November.

While the legislation passed the House handily, it narrowly passed the Senate. One lone Republican switched his long-time opposition to the bill and gave supporters the extra vote they needed in passing it on a 25-23 vote. Just as was the case with the passage of Indianapolis' HRO last year, bipartisan support is critical if the GLBT is to be successful in bringing equality for everyone throughout the country.

There are now 33 states which allow the discrimination of persons based upon their sexual orientation, including Indiana. Will Indiana become the 18th state to outlaw such discrimination, or will it become the 47th? If the hate crimes legislation is any indication, it will likely be the latter since Indiana is just one of 4 states without a hate crimes law.

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