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WA Faith Leaders Issue Open Letter About I-1552
May 24, 2017

“Do Not Allow the Backers of I-1552 to Sow Fear and Distrust”

Washington State – Bishops, Rabbis, Reverends and others from around Washington State are asking their fellow faith leaders to search their hearts before helping advance I-1552.

The open letter is signed by a Bishop Kirby Unti, Northwest Washington Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop Greg Rickel, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Presiding Elder Spencer Barrett of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, Temple Beth El and others.

“We are followers of many different faiths that share a basic common tenet: love our neighbors as ourselves — including those who may seem different from us… Like many of our congregants, we’re concerned about the impacts of a proposed ballot initiative – I-1552 – that seeks to repeal the last decade of Washington’s non-discrimination protections for transgender people…

This is not how we, as people of faith, treat each other. We should not single out our transgender neighbors for different treatment and potentially put their safety at risk with a proposal that would have unintended consequences for all of us.

We have prayed about this and come to believe that protecting people from discrimination is about treating others as we want to be treated — including people who are transgender — and we should all be treated equally under the law.

Please search your heart and do not allow the backers of I-1552 to sow fear and distrust among us.”

Today’s interfaith letter is in direct contrast to a recent plea for help with I-1552 from anti-LGBT pastor Joe Fuiten, who led the opposition to marriage equality in Washington State. Backers of I-1552 say they are planning a coordinated push for signatures for I-1552 at churches in June. They cite a letter of encouragement from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was recently named an anti-LGBT extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  They are also being aided by conservative anti-LGBT group NC Values Coalition, which most recently tried to convince North Carolina churches to kick out Boy Scout troops using their spaces.

Today’s letter also addresses some of the claims made by the forces behind I-1552:

“The supporters of I-1552 say safety and privacy are their goals. Many of us are parents, and it’s only natural to worry about the well-being of our families and children, especially when we hear so many tragic stories about people victimized by physical assaults or sexual violence. But when we’re anxious or concerned, it’s important to step back and get the facts.

That’s why we listen to our law enforcement and violence-prevention experts. These leaders, like former Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, know that non-discrimination laws permitting transgender men and women to use public facilities that match their gender are not, and have never been, a threat to anyone’s safety.

In fact, they say I-1552 would do nothing to improve public safety. It might even make things worse by encouraging strangers to confront and question others in public facilities and violate each other’s privacy and safety by demanding proof of “sex at birth.”

“We applaud these faith leaders for stepping forward and calling on others to respect our state’s long standing non-discrimination laws,” said Seth Kirby, a transgender man and Chair of Washington Won’t Discriminate. “Washingtonians value fairness and equality and we believe that everyone in our state should be able to earn a living, frequent a business, earn an education, and raise a family free from the fear of discrimination.”

Washington Won’t Discriminate is a broad coalition of more than 500 law enforcement, clergy, business leaders, violence prevent groups and others opposing efforts to roll back our state’s non-discrimination protections.