Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Referendum 65 Endangers Our Future

This is the third in a special, several part series on the threat that this year's crop of right wing ballot measures pose to the sustainable future of Washington State. A reminder that you can help the progressive movement take advantage of our First Amendment rights by reporting right wing signature gathering activity when you observe it occurring. And don't forget that you have every right to urge fellow voters not to sign a petition for a right wing ballot measure.

For dozens of years, activists for equal rights have struggled mightily, against fierce and bewildering opposition, to amend Washington State's laws against intolerance so that discrimination against people of different sexual orientations is outlawed.

The breakthrough came only this year, when the State Senate finally approved EHSB 2661 and sent it to Governor Gregoire, who signed it into law.

But even before the Governor could sign the legislation and make it official, the despicable Tim Eyman was announcing plans to ask the people of Washington State to overturn it.

Eyman (whose driving motives have always been somewhat unclear) is now pushing the religious right to mobilize and collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place Referendum 65 on the ballot.

Eyman has sent thousands of petitions to churches, hoping to organize what he calls a "Referendum Sunday" (which evokes, for us, some memories of the "Justice Sundays"). Eyman wants churches to distribute the petitions to their memberships tomorrow and have them returned in a week, full of signatures, for collection.

There are stories about Eyman's plans today in numerous media outlets. While media coverage of this struggle has been mostly clear, editors and reporters sometimes miss the mark. Here's one headline (from KOMO TV's website) which could use some correcting:
Eyman Asks Churches For Help On Gay Rights Measure
So what's wrong with it? The headline makes it sound as if the measure is about gay rights - or, equal rights. That's not what Referendum 65 is about. Referendum 65 is about legalizing discrimination.

Think about it.

We're talking about asking Washington State voters to say it's perfectly acceptable under the law to hate other people and refuse them products or services because of who they are. That's immoral and unjust.

Though bigoted evangelicals will be lining up right...and well, eagerly embrace Referendum 65, any true Christian will recognize immediately that this completely goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus' entire life was about ministering to other people and rejecting no one.

But the religious right has distorted Jesus' teachings, and has been engaged for years in the spreading of fear and hate.

We have defeated this kind of thinking time and again throughout American history. The fight for equal rights has been a long and bitter struggle. But as George Lakoff has noted, with each landmark advancement we have made in civil rights, we have united our country more firmly behind our finest traditional values.

We cannot afford to have a society where citizens are not treated equally under the law. It's bad enough that there are people in Washington State - and in America - who are brimming with hatred and bigotry towards their fellow human beings. It is absolutely unacceptable for our state's laws to reflect the idea that it's OK to discriminate.

What's really sad is that much of this intolerance is based on unnecessary fear. As Yoda says in Star Wars: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate...hate leads to suffering.

The end result of discrimination is human suffering - and that is most certainly a threat to the sustainable future of our state's communities.

If we truly value fairness...if we truly value impartiality...and if we truly value compassion (and we do) then we cannot afford the evil that Tim Eyman and his cronies are trying to sell.

We have a moral responsibility to defeat proposals such as Referendum 65, and ensure that all Washingtonians are treated equally under the law...with dignity. If you are approached to sign R-65, tell the petitioner you oppose this assault on our sustainable future - and report the incident to Permanent Defense.

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