Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Christine Gregoire on the Signing of Civil Rights Legislation

Bill Signing Remarks from the Office of Governor Chris Gregoire

Civil Rights Legislation, ESHB 2661

January 31, 2006

Governor Gregoire:
In 1977, a group of thoughtful citizens took the first steps toward adding "sexual orientation" to the state's law against discrimination. We owe these citizens a tremendous amount of gratitude because it was their first steps that brought us to where we are today...my signing of the Civil Rights Bill into law.

Twenty-nine years: I can't think of any piece of legislation that has taken so long to work its way through the legislature. It makes today especially historic.

Today's victory is all about stopping discrimination. Some will try to cloud the issue, but the issue is clear: When is it okay to discriminate?

As a people, we exhibit different beliefs-we expect as much in a diverse society. But we're all bound by the same social contract; we're all bound by the same expectations and protections of liberty. This is all about why it's wrong to discriminate in employment, insurance, credit, and housing. Period.

It took the tenacity of many people over the course of the last twenty-nine years working on this bill, with even more people joining in the struggle with each passing year.

I am proud that finally, after far too many years, the State of Washington has taken an affirmative stand to say to gay and lesbian individuals, moms and dads, sons and daughters, neighbors, co-workers and friends, living in Washington State that they are, like all other people, free to work in an environment absent discrimination.

After far too many years of "near misses" and "could have beens" the State of Washington is standing strong in its commitment to gay and lesbian citizens that they do have a right to feel safe and free to apply for a mortgage without fear of recrimination; and that they must have the ability to look freely for an apartment to rent without fear of reproach.

There are so many individuals, advocates, and organizations that are responsible for making Washington state an inclusive state that values diversity. To name them would take what would seem like thirty years, but I do want to extend a special thank you to the House and Senate leadership - Speaker Frank Chopp and Majority Leader Lisa Brown for their unwavering commitment and hard work to see this bill move through their respective chambers; and I want to thank and commend those who made this bill's passage a bipartisan effort.

And there are a few people I want to give particular thanks to:

First, Representative Ed Murray, the prime sponsor of the bill. Rep. Murray worked 11 long, hard years to see this day. Ed, on behalf of all the citizens of our great state, thank you, for your perseverance, strength and commitment.

Thank you to Representative Shirley Hankins who was the second sponsor behind Ed on HB 2661. And thank you to Representatives Joe McDermott, Jim Moeller and David Upthegrove for their valiant efforts in this noble cause.

I want to recognize the committee chairs, Rep. Kathy Haigh and Sen. Darlene Fairley for their work in shepherding this bill through the process.

We must not forget the late Senator Cal Anderson. You have heard his name rightly and justly invoked with the Civil Rights Bill. Every year during his service to this state, first as a representative and then as a senator, Cal fought to ban discrimination in the workplace.

I can see a tree growing from my office window that was planted in memory of Senator Anderson after his death in 1995. Under that tree is a plaque that reads: "As a tribute to his integrity, dignity and courage in striving to make all citizens of Washington State equal under the law."

We have the late Dick Hemstad, a great Senate Republican who just passed away, to thank for his support. We have the late Senator and Representative Bud Shinpoch, another early supporter, to thank.

We also have Senator Bill Finkbeiner to thank for this important law.

And we have former State Sen. Pete Francis, the bill's original sponsor 29 years ago, to thank. Please join me in giving a big hand to Pete who joins us today.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be serving in a long line of Governors who have been unwavering in their support: Governors Rosellini, Evans, Spellman, Gardner, Lowry, Locke, all support this legislation. I'm the fortunate one to sign it into law.

Prohibiting discrimination knows no political party. We would not be here today if not for the valiant efforts of members of both chambers - Republicans and Democrats, alike - working together. The Legislature deserves credit for its civility and spirit of respect. This is an emotionally charged issue, and our lawmakers were the model of good behavior. You serve your constituents well and on their behalf I thank you.

In my State of the State address last month, I said that we must see ourselves through history's lens. A generation from now, citizens will wonder what took us so long. They'll see this law for what it is: A natural extension of our values as Washingtonians: The values of fairness, of justice, and of opportunity.

Our laws give us meaning; our laws speak to how we treat our fellow citizens; and our laws reaffirm our principles and reflect the true light of an enlightened society.

Thank you, all. Thank you for being thoughtful, thank you for being committed, and thank you for ensuring that all citizens in the great State of Washington stand equal under the law.

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. - William James

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