Saturday, January 28, 2006

Olé, Olympia. Now What?

Many were the long-delayed parties in Washington State last night. By a single vote in the Senate, the Evergreen State finally, finally passed a gay-rights bill. As in Maine, this just offers protection to homosexuals against discrimination in basic areas – employment, housing, credit and insurance.

This makes Washington the 17th state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The governor was poised to sign it. The law will take effect in June, 90 days after the end of the legislative session. A referendum challenge would freeze implementation. The plug nasties are mean enough and poor sports enough to do that. Yet they dare speak of people being forced to do what they would rather not.

A key question now is what the schadenfreude set will do to try to punish homosexuals. The answer probably awaits the State Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Their high court has heard and apparently decided on whether to uphold lower court rulings that SSM is legal there. If they support that position, you can be sure one or more drives will follow immediately to outlaw SSM.

Perhaps because of the largely liberal Western population centers, particularly Seattle, Washington feigns liberality. Yet it is pretty regressive in many areas, particularly in contrast to such pink areas as Boston. Yet, even in Massachusetts, we find large areas, both blue-collar and suburban snotty, who seem to fear or hate homosexuals.

The Olympia debate mirrored much of what we see throughout the U.S. on gay rights and SSM. One article cites a very moving speech by an anti-gay-rights senator, Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard). He has a gay daughter, but is clearly out of touch with both her and the issues related to the new law. In opposing the measure, he said:
Having a child who chooses to be homosexual is very painful. I know this because my daughter has chosen the life of a lesbian. From the very first day she shared with me what her lifestyle was, she has been trying to change me. And I, quite frankly, have been trying to change her.

(When she asked to bring her partner on a visit,) There was a long hesitation on my part and I said, '"I can't have that."

By passing a law that makes homosexuality a protected behavior, we are turning our backs on the people who need our love, guidance and understanding to become right in God's eyes.
Even Lynne and Dick Chaney are more flexible and insightful about their lesbian daughter than that. That must be very painful for Oke.

One must wonder as the evidence piles up that homosexuality is innate whether those who are so narrow will broaden at all. It suggests that the chasm between the equal-rights America and the we've-already-shared-enough-rights one will remain or even widen.

According to an AP report, rhetoric remained heated, with the losers acting like, well, soreheads. One senator, Republican Dan Swecker bwak-ed the Chicken Little bwak of gay rights would "trample unrelentingly" on clerics and fundamentalists railing against homosexuals. Regressive Bay Staters, Canadians, and Mainers all took the same position. When those proved unfounded, they continued their bwak.

Swecker's take was that "We, the state, are telling people to accept, actually to embrace, something that goes against their religious views." Oddly enough, even though many white and black anti-gay clerics and legislators contrast the civil-rights movement of the last century with gay rights, their actual positions make these struggles seem more and more alike. We can recall similar bwaks about letting (the then called) Negroes attend formerly white schools, eat in formerly white restaurants and vote as forcing whites to accept the into their lives, leading to intermarriages and all manner of societial degradation. Lots of remembered shame should not be lost on the anti folk.

The recap from the capital's daily, The Olympian, quoted Swecker as promising to try to nullify the law. "Referendum, big time," he said.

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