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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Churches Support Anti-bias Repeal

Initiative: Members of Alliance to Help Gather Signatures Against Gay Protections

[TACOMA, WA] - A coalition of Tacoma churches is lending its support to an initiative to overturn the city's recently passed law banning discrimination against gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities.

The Rev. C.S. Price, president of Tacoma Ministerial Alliance, said he and others would start gathering signatures on petitions to remove "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" from the city's anti-discrimination law.

SIDEBAR: A Closer Look
Tacoma's law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in both public and private employment, in housing and in school or college admissions.
Sexual orientation shall mean "actual or perceived homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality."
Gender identity shall mean "the status or perception of being transsexual, intersexed (possessing aspects of both genders), transvestite or transgendered."
About 30 people met Tuesday at St. John Baptist Church where leaders of many of Tacoma's primarily black churches debated Mayor Bill Baarsma on the City Council's decision.

The alliance sent a letter opposing the change prior to the council's 8-1 vote to approve the amended law April 23.

The initiative requires more than 4,000 signatures. The alliance itself includes about 38 area congregations representing thousands of members.

A similar ordinance extending civil protections to gays, lesbians and bisexuals passed when it came before the City Council in 1989, but voters overturned it later that same year. In 1990, grass-roots groups tried to restore the City Council's changes but failed at the polls by more than 2-to-1.

Weeks after the City Council passed this most recent ordinance, Doug Delin, a former City Council candidate from Tacoma's East Side, filed a petition to put an initiative on either the September or November ballot asking voters to repeal the amended law.

Members of the church alliance at the meeting Tuesday said they oppose protections for gays, lesbians and sexual minorities on the basis that homosexuality is immoral and a sin against God.

Adding protections for people's sexual behavior opens a "Pandora's box" that could encourage any individual or group to ask for protection from discrimination based on behavior, Price said.

"If you're not careful, you're going to have people lobbying the city to allow them to pull their pants down in the middle of the street," he said.

Baarsma countered that the law also prevents discrimination on the basis of religion and whether someone has children, and those are both choices based on behavior.

The mayor also tried to make parallels between the evolution of the Civil Rights Act and the discrimination that gays and lesbians now experience.

And that prompted some alliance members to question whether there was a need for a specific law to address sexual orientation when existing civil rights laws already promise equal rights for all citizens.

Advocates of the amended anti-discrimination law have said they needed the city to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" because those groups had no protection from discrimination at the
state or federal level.

Related Stories:

Apr 24, 2002 - Tacoma Adds Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to Human Rights Ordinance

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