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Religious leaders gather to speak out for gay rights - School where anti-gay church meets used to push anti-discrimination bill

by Noel S. Brady
Journal Reporter

A group of religious leaders representing a wide range of faiths gathered Wednesday at Lake Washington High School to urge state lawmakers to ensure gays and lesbians the same rights and protections from discrimination as other minorities.

At an informational demonstration outside the Kirkland school, about 30 clergy and members of groups including the Anti-Defamation League called for passage of a revived bill that died by just one vote in the Senate last session.

Supporters said they chose Lake Washington High School for Wednesday's demonstration because the school is home to Sunday services for Antioch Bible Church and its outspoken pastor, Ken Hutcherson, who successfully lobbied against the bill in previous legislative sessions.

Hutcherson, a former Seattle Seahawks linebacker, took credit for convincing Microsoft to drop its backing for the bill.

``We stand in the face of discrimination,'' said the Rev. Monica Corsaro, ecumenical campus minister at the University of Washington and a member of the Religious Coalition for Equality. ``We here today are asking the state of Washington to honor all people and love all people individually.''

The relatively small demonstration was a warm-up for a much larger rally Jan. 23 on the Capitol steps in Olympia. The bill would include sexual orientation in current state law banning discrimination by race, sex, religion, national origin, marital status and other categories.

``It is a core value -- simple as that,'' said Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, who joined the demonstration. ``It is the right thing to do.''

House Bill 1515, as it was known in the 2005 legislative session, died by a single vote in the state Senate on April 21. Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, has been sponsoring the bill for a decade, but the 2005 session was the first time it reached the Senate floor.

Shortly after the bill failed there, Microsoft, which was heavily criticized for not backing it, again reversed its stance and vowed to support it in the future.

``It's a bill that's long past due,'' said Robert Jacobs, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, which is known mostly for fighting discrimination against Jews. ``Most people don't recognize that a large percentage of our population is still being discriminated against.''

He continued: ``Those like Pastor Hutcherson represent a narrow segment of the fundamentalist religious community,'' Jacobs said. ``In their opposition to civil rights for all, they support continued legal discrimination against gays and lesbians. They oppose the principles of fairness, equality and justice upon which the United States was founded.''

Hutcherson could not be reached for comment Wednesday. On the Antioch Bible Church Web site, the pastor is quoted, explaining the difference between discrimination based on race and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a choice, he said. Race is not.

Hutcherson, who is black, refers to Bible passages that spell out God's disdain for homosexuality as a sin.

``Those who don't know me think I am egotistical,'' he said. ``Those who know me know I love God and just desire to do his will.''

Outside the high school Wednesday, Jamal Rahman, a Muslim minister at Interfaith Community Church in Ballard, said he strongly disagrees with Hutcherson's interpretation of the Bible. Both the Bible and the Koran say God loves all men and women equally, he said.

Noel Brady can be reached at [email protected] or 425-453-4252.

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