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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Tacoma Says No to Initiative 1

[TACOMA, WA] - Voters in Tacoma were saying Tuesday that they wanted to keep protections for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities by turning down an effort to repeal that portion of the city's antidiscrimination law.

Initiative No. 1 asked voters to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from the antidiscrimination law. The City Council added those protections by an 8-1 vote in April.

About 40 supporters of Tacoma United for Fairness, the group that raised $185,000 for its Vote No on 1 campaign, cheered loudly as campaign leader Laurie Jinkins announced the results at a gathering downtown.

"We've built a community that will not silently stand by and let a group of bigots trample on another group of people in this town," she said.

Jinkins said she expected the results to be much closer.

Doug Delin, leader of the repeal effort, said he would wait for the final results and would not concede Tuesday. His campaign raised about $14,000.

"If the people read the law ... and thought it was a good law and decided to keep it, then we'll go with the will of the people," he said.

The law prohibits people in both the private and public sector from denying housing, education or employment on the basis of someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.

People who opposed the law said their religious and moral beliefs held that homosexuality was wrong. Some said they feared it would subject small businesses to unfair discrimination lawsuits.

Those who favored the law said gays and lesbians are being discriminated against in Tacoma and need protection. And they said it was only fair to add sexual minorities to the long list of other protected classes, such as race, religion, age and marital status.

Tom Egnew, 54, walking out of the polling place at Mason United Methodist Church in the North End, said he voted against the initiative.

Similar laws have been in place in Seattle and Spokane, he said, and initiative supporters here had no proof from those cities that such laws prompt lawsuits against small businesses.

"That was a scaremonger tactic," he said.

Paige Malin, 36, said he voted for the initiative because he didn't believe in "special privileges" for gays and lesbians.

Most voters on both sides agreed on one thing: The ballot was poorly worded. A yes vote meant to repeal the law and deny protections to sexual minorities. A no vote meant to keep those protections.

Ann Jackson, 46, had just voted at Stanley Elementary School in the Hilltop when she realized she voted the wrong way on the issue.

"I guess I was confused," she said. She marked "no" on her ballot, but said she opposed protections for gays and lesbians.

"Keep your sexuality at home and to yourself," she said. "I don't need to know about it."

Ren Jankiewicz, 29, and her partner Angel Stamborski, 32, overheard Jackson's comments. The lesbian couple were at Stanley to vote with their 8-year-old daughter.

"To me that's very sad," Jankiewicz said. She said it was awful to think that she could lose her job or be denied housing just because of her sexual orientation. "That should be criminal," she said.

This was the third time in 12 years Tacoma voters have been asked to decide whether the city should protect sexual minorities from discrimination.

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