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King County
Executive Office

Ron Sims, King County Executive 701 Fifth Ave. Suite 3210 Seattle, WA 98104 Phone: 206-296-4040 Fax: 206-296-0194 TTY Relay: 711
Image: King County Exeutive Ron Sims, News Release

April 6, 2006

Text transcript of Sims speaking on protecting the rights of sexual minorities

King County Executive Ron Sims:
I am joined today by King County Councilmember Dow Constantine and Representative from the 43rd District, Representative Ed Murray. I want to thank everyone for being here this morning. Today is an important day, even a historic day. Today King County will take a major leap forward in ensuring that all of our 1.8 million citizens will lead lives free from the pain, stigma, and lost opportunities caused by discrimination.

For the gay and lesbian community of this region, I hope that today will be a day of well-deserved pride and celebration. In a few moments I am going to sign King County Ordinance 15399, passed by the council on March 27. As most of you know, this ordinance updates the King County code definition of sexual orientation to include gender identity, thus extending to all residents’ existing protections against discrimination in employment, housing public accommodations and contracting.

This ordinance is the result of focused, compassionate work by residents, community activists, councilmembers, and county staff to ensure every person in our county is treated the same, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not just a good public policy; it is a good people policy.

First, I want to commend the five councilmembers who voted for this much needed and long overdue legislation: King County Councilmembers Larry Phillips, Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson, Larry Gossett and Dow Constantine. They deserve tremendous credit for standing firm behind one basic, non-negotiable principle that should unite us all as Americans: the belief that as citizens of this great country, we all deserve equal treatment under the law.

It is a fundamental principle of our democracy, and a top priority of my administration that we work to ensure that all residents enjoy the right to be free from discrimination. There has been much progress, we have seen the State of Washington adopt by statute protections against discrimination based upon sexual orientation. That leadership, those years of hard work were done by Representative Ed Murray, he did an incredible job. And it too was a very well deserved celebration. And people are entitled whether you are in Sequim, whether you are in Kelso, whether you are in Omak, Washington, no matter where you to be free from discrimination. It was historic; it was a bold move to provide civil rights protection throughout the state. Other jurisdictions have adopted ordinances like the one that we just expanded; the City of Seattle, the City of Tacoma and Olympia have all moved forward to expand protections based upon sexual orientations and gender identity.

Finally, I want to commend the community members who fought so tirelessly people like Marsha Bitzer, Bill Dubay, Mike Keller, Sarah Luthens, Tim Bradbury and many others. I know that some of them have said this took so long. Why did it take so long? I introduced this ordinance two years ago but we were told and given promises that people would act upon this ordinance and those promises were fulfilled. Sometimes good things take longer than we want but with perseverance and patience we were able to achieve that civil rights protection.

I have seen and been the recipient of acts of discrimination. I’ve always hoped that my children would never ever have visited upon them what were visited upon me. Because after all these years those things that I saw that were directed to my parents or were directed to me seem so fresh. And I would like to tell you that the pain goes. It never goes away. You learn to deal with it but the pain never goes away. Those little hurts in life that maybe were done not maliciously but were done none the less, they made you feel less than a whole person. That all of a sudden you feel vulnerable. That all of a sudden you weren’t entitled to the same rights. I can still remember my parents not being able to buy a house where they wanted to buy a house, or get the jobs they wanted, or the apartments they wanted. Or being told in school that I wasn’t supposed to go to college because African Americans didn’t go to college. Much has changed but there’s still much to do and this ordinance I think takes one more step at ensuring that our friends, children, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins that they won’t feel the sting and the pain of discrimination any more.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce County Councilmember Dow Constantine.

King County Councilmember Dow Constantine:
Thank you Executive Sims. Thank you Ed for being here. It was a great day on the County Council when we were finally able to pass civil rights protections to protect people on the basis of gender identity. As I said then and I’ll say again today we do not have the power to ban bigotry. That is a matter for the individual human mind and heart.

Executive Sims spoke just now very eloquently about his personal experiences with bigotry and how that has affected his life. But we do have the power to ban discrimination. And with the Executive’s signature today, we will do just that.

In banning discrimination and in putting into law the fact that we will not tolerate people being treated unfairly, we set the stage for the bigotry to slowly abate.

Now, I spent a lot of time in the State Legislature and I got to work with some great legislators including Representative Murray and we had some tough battles there over the years. It was very discouraging to vote year after year on the civil rights legislation and watch year after year as it was turned into a political wedge issue by our opponents as we lost year after year.

And, there was also DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which was brought up very cynically in order to divide people against each other. That was another battle that we had to wage and another battle that we lost. But I have to tell you that the passage of the civil rights legislation in the Legislature was a great day and one of the few days since I left that I really, really wished that I was still back in the Washington State Senate. And I was so happy that we were able to capture a little bit of that feeling of accomplishment that we’re doing something truly important when the King County Council passed the civil rights legislation.

I want to particularly thank Executive Sims for his leadership. He has not only been a leader in crafting the laws, the laws to protect people against discrimination, he’s been a leader in publicly articulating the moral basis for these laws. He has joined the debate in public. He has been out on point. And it is very difficult to do that and to go into a public forum, into a debate, with a very polished bigot. It is very critical that we have people like Ron Sims here to help lead us forward to provide for the rights for all the people. So, thank you Executive Sims, thank you Representative Murray. I’m very pleased to be here this morning for this historic event.

King County Executive Ron Sims:
Representative Murray, please.

Representative Ed Murray, 43rd District:
Thank you. Executive, thank you for inviting me this morning. Councilmember Constantine reminded us of the dark days that we’ve been through. And we’ve had bright days this year. The day the County Council passed this ordinance and today with its signing is a bright day. On behalf of all the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in King County I wan to thank Executive Ron Sims for his leadership.

I want to thank Councilmember Dow Constantine and all the Democrats on the King County Council. And I want to thank all the people who worked so hard to make this ordinance law. What you’ve done is extended the rights that belong to all of us. Belong to all citizens of the county and it’s a great thing. It’s a great thing that’s happening in Martin Luther King County. Thanks very much.

King County Executive Ron Sims:
Our journey to be free from discrimination has just begun. We now have the law that will insist on it. And now we know that we will be able to set the stage for people to accept and eventually believe that one should always be free from discrimination no matter who the individual is. So to me it’s just, I’m so pleased. I’m so pleased.

Much has changed over time. And much will change over the remaining years. But we will be the country that we should be and the people that we should be.

We are the world’s grand experiment. There is nothing like us in the history of humankind. We don’t have a common gene pool. We are a people of multiple places, a variety of faiths. And, I think that we can achieve the greatness that this country aspires to when we put mechanisms in place to free ourselves from discrimination and bigotry.

So now the best lies ahead of us. It will be a wonderful and it will be a grand road to travel. A wonderful journey. I wish you all the best in life. Do you have any questions?

Thank you. Please be well.

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  Updated: March 17, 2010