The recent passage of the gay rights bill in the state Legislature has provoked a debate within the African American community about whether gay rights are akin to the African American civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church, is an outspoken opponent of gay rights and takes issue with the equation of the two movements. King County Executive Ron Sims, son of a Baptist minister and lay minister himself, just as vigorously takes the opposite point of view and has explicitly linked the two causes.
These two Black leaders debate the issue at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, in the downstairs section of Town Hall, corner of Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street (enter on Seneca).Tickets are $5 at the door only. Town Hall members receive priority seating.
Hutcherson is the founder and senior pastor of his Redmond church. A former National Football League linebacker, he has been featured on numerous radio and TV programs, as well as in newspapers and magazines, for his crusade against gay rights. In the spring of 2004, he organized the Mayday for Marriage rally in support of marriage remaining defined as being between a man and a woman, that drew an estimated 20,000 conservative Christians to Safeco Field.
He also helped to organize a national Mayday for Marriage rally in Washington, D.C. in October of 2004, which attracted some 140,000 participants from around the country.
In 2005, Hutcherson lobbied Microsoft Corp. to withdraw its support for a bill pending in the Washington state Legislature — H.B. 1515 — which would have made it illegal to fire an employee because of sexual orientation. Microsoft withdrew its backing, and the bill failed by one vote.
The ensuing media storm led Microsoft to reinstate its support for the bill, which the Senate passed this session by a 25-23 vote, followed by the House, which passed it 61-37. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law on Jan. 31.
Born in Spokane, Ron Sims' parents both worked in government: His father, an ordained Baptist minister, worked for the Washington State Office of Community Development; his mother was the first African American department head in the history of the city of Spokane. Sims cut his political teeth as a young man marching alongside his parents in the struggle for racial equality, and a passion for civil rights issues has animated him throughout his political career.
In 1985, Sims was elected to the King County Council. In 1996, he was appointed King County Executive after then-Executive Gary Locke was elected governor.
Sims stood for election the following year, winning easily, and was re-elected by a wide margin in 2001. A longtime friend to the gay community, Sims strongly believes that gay and lesbian citizens deserve the same rights and privileges as other groups, including marriage rights.
Last year, as politicians in Portland and San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples without explicit legal sanction, Sims came under pressure to do the same. He refused, citing his obligation to uphold the law. At the same time, however, he worked privately with gay marriage advocates to craft a lawsuit against King County in an effort to overturn the state's Defense of Marriage Act, which is currentlybeforethe Washington State Supreme Court.
For more information, visit www.townhallseattle. com.