I am, unfortunately, represented by a fundamentalist Christian Republican, Sen. Dave Schmidt, who has no intention of supporting this bill. His office uses the usual specious "special rights" arguments and non-issues of "morality" to argue against equal rights for all. Presented below is my email correspondence with his office over the past two days, cut-tagged to preserve the blood pressure of some of my more volatile friends.
The correspondence below is, unfortunately, unsurprising to me but extremely disappointing. For reasons I still cannot fathom, despite all that has happened to me in my life, I still hope that people will see reason and make choices that act in the interests of freedom and happiness for everyone. Yes, I really am that stupidly optimistic.
My initial letter:
SUBJECT: HB 1515
Dear Senator Schmidt
I am writing to urge you to support HB 1515, that would finally grant equal rights to gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the State of Washington. It is a terrible thing that people can be discriminated against in our state simply because of whom they love and wish to
live with. I feel it is extremely important that the State of Washington join the 21st century and put discrimination based on any criteria behind
us. It is inhumane to deny individuals an opportunity to work or live in a decent home for any reason. Prejudice is an extremely ugly and harmful thing in all its manifestations, whether they are racial, religious, sexual, or based on sexual preferences and identities.
Please vote to support HB 1515 when it comes before the full Senate for passage. It is time to leave hatred and discrimination behind.
His office's response:
Thank you for your letter, Senator Schmidt will not be supporting HB 1515.
LA to Senator Dave Schmidt
My response to this:
I would like to know why Senator Schmidt will be voting against equality for all Washington State citizens.
His office's canned fundamentalist response:
The term sexual orientation is too inclusive and too broad. A person's sexual orientation can change over time. The definition of sexual
orientation presumes all types of sexuality is the same; it puts sex outside of the realm of morality. This bill would lead to discrimination against organizations that disapprove of sex outside of marriage. There is no documentation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It should not be the law that people cannot speak out against an unnatural state; you cannot force people to accept these
practices. Sexual preference is not an immutable characteristic. There is no means of verification of sexual preference because it is
self-proclaimed. The definition of sexual orientation creates a protection that a person could invoke one day and then deny another day. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not the same as discrimination on the basis of race. You cannot make what someone does
in the bedroom a law.
* In 1997, Initiative 677, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation was rejected by the voters with a 59 percent "no" vote.
* HB 1515 creates special rights for homosexual people.
* Homosexual men and women, just like heterosexual men and women, can live their whole lives without ever having to make their sexual preference an issue - black people cannot avoid the color of their skin.
LA to Senator Dave Schmidt
I responded to this with an argument that I wish people involved in this struggle would begin to use.
The term "religion" is also extremely inclusive and broad. A person's religion can change over time, and the definition of religion presumes that all religion is the same. It is invisible because a person can hide their personal and private religious practices. A person's religion is self-proclaimed and is not a "natural state." This being the case, if we are to use this argument, religious rights should not be subject to protections against discrimination, and yet this is among the founding freedoms of our nation.
Despite the flexible nature of religion, we are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of a person's religion in terms of employment or housing. The argument of "special rights" for sexual minorities is specious, as all HB1515 will do is prohibit discrimination in public arenas. People can make a personal decision as to whether or not they approve or disapprove of a person's sexual orientation but they should not have the right to discriminate against individuals in business, commerce or access to areas otherwise open to the public.
Currently, the state anti-discrimination law contains language that protects nonprofit religious or sectarian organizations from having to accept a policy that goes against their deep-held beliefs. None of that is changed in the House bill. The bill also provides exemptions in some real estate transactions involving the sharing, rental or sublease of a dwelling. No one will be forced to do anything they consider immoral in the privacy of their own homes or houses of worship.
Given these facts, it is apparent that in voting against HB1515, Senator Schmidt is not acting in the interests of equality for the citizens of Washington State. It seems, instead, that he will be voting to continue to enshrine the tenets of a particular majority religion that encourage discrimination against sexual minorities.
The "immorality" of sexual minority practices is not agreed upon between all religions. In fact, in the religion I practice, sexual minorities are often seen as having a special connection to deity due to the balance of masculine and feminine attributes within them. In many indigenous religions, people who are homosexual or bisexual are seen as having a potential for better understanding of and connection with the divine. Considering this, it is in fact religious discrimination to enshrine the attitudes of a majority religion into law as is currently the case.
Why not simply state that the Senator's position is driven by his personal religious beliefs rather than hide behind the false claims that private practices that may or may not be mutable are not worthy of equal protection under the law?
The Senator's office sent this non-response:
It would seem we are at an impasse and agreement to disagree.
So, as you can see, I have changed no one's mind, but I do hope that the argument I've presented can serve as a model for further public discourse, and that it will, perhaps, offer something to those who are on the fence regarding civil rights for sexual minorities.