Following the lead of 16 other states, Washington will no longer tolerate anti-gay discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and lending. On January 17, the equal rights bill passed in the Senate 25-23, with Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signing in approval.
Spokane’s electorate previously approved a similar ordinance preventing anti-gay discrimination. The Community Colleges of Spokane has upheld this ordinance as part of its code of conduct and now will follow the new state law.
Non-profit religious groups and businesses under eight employees will be exempt from the new law. Nonetheless, Washington Republicans are opposed on largely religious grounds.
Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (R-Kirkland) voted alone among his GOP colleagues in favor of the anti-discrimination bill. Finkbeiner said he feels it’s wrong to discriminate based upon “who their heart chooses to love.”
Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman promised to place a repealing measure on the ballot. If Eyman receives enough signatures by June 7, Washington voters will decide whether the bill should remain law.
Many believe that the new law, in defending equal rights for gays, will pave the way for same-sex marriage. Maggie Hall, an SFCC student who identifies herself as bisexual, hopes that this will be the case.
“If they say that (same-sex partners) can’t marry, that’s also a form of discrimination,” Hall said. “If they love their partner, they should be able to have the benefits of being married.”
The Washington State Supreme Court may soon overturn the state’s Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Opponents of the act are now likely to argue that same-sex marriage should be included under anti-discrimination.
On the campus of SFCC, there are already protections for gay students and faculty. CCS’s official policy forbids any form of discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation.
Barbara Williamson, advisor of The Alliance, advocates on behalf of students who feel they’ve been unfairly treated for their sexual preference. By presiding over our school’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning) support group, Williamson has learned the proper methods in how students may lodge complaints.
Williamson said she chose to teach at SFCC because of its rules on sexual orientation. She supports the existing policy so that no student may be afraid to attend school for who they are.
“All students deserve equal access to an educational facility,” Williamson said. “What (the policy) does say is that as an institution, we value all people.”
Even with SFCC’s anti-discrimination policy, violations still occur. Williamson recalls that The Alliance has a hard time keeping flyers up without them being torn down or vandalized. Furthermore, she claims to have received several angry phone calls merely for The Alliance’s sexual preferences.
Carol Green is Vice President of Student and Administrative Services. She is the one to contact in case any student feels threatened by another student for their sexual orientation.
Green feels strongly that sexual orientation should be included under the school’s anti-discrimination policy.
“If they discriminated based on sexual orientation, I would choose not to work here,” Green said. “Even if homosexuality were a lifestyle choice, I fail to see how discriminating against it would be any different from discrimination against one’s religious preference.”
Green provides assurance that gays and lesbians are protected on our campus.
“SFCC does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including sexual orientation,”
Green said. “If any incident were to occur, we investigate any complaints and take appropriate action.”
Greg Stevens is the Chief Human Resources Officer of Community Colleges of Spokane. Stevens is responsible for enforcing the school’s policy in case any student feels harassed or discriminated against by an instructor or staff member.
Stevens is also accountable for protecting employees of CCS from anti-gay discrimination. Human Resources provides the materials necessary to educate the CCS staff regarding the anti-discrimination policy,
“We have a supervisory training element,” Stevens said. “We issue a payroll stuffer on a regular basis on the policy and how to report violations.”