Eyman files measures to undo gay-rights law

OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman filed two ballot measures Monday aimed at undoing the new legislation banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The effort quickly drew fire from gay-rights groups and support from a conservative Christian organization.

Gay-rights supporters announced they are already forming a coalition together to fight the effort. "We are mobilized, we are motivated and we are ready," said Fran Dunaway, executive director of Equal Rights Washington.

On the other side, the Christian Coalition of Washington said it was supporting Eyman's work. "We fully embrace the effort," said Rick Forcier, executive director of the group.

State law bans discrimination based on race, sex, religion, marital status, disability and other categories. The gay-rights measure passed by the Legislature on Friday adds sexual orientation to that list. Gov. Christine Gregoire plans to sign the legislation today.

Eyman would not discuss his motivation for filing the measures except to say that voters should have the right to decide an issue this important and that "I do not believe a majority of voters are in favor of preferential treatment based on what group they belong to."

Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of House Bill 2661, said he expects Eyman will get the signatures he needs to put a measure on the November ballot.

"We can see him for what he's always been," Murray said. "A member of the extreme right who is out of touch with moderate voters in this state."

The Rev. Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor who is chairman of Faith & Freedom Network, an organization that opposed the gay-rights bill, said he wasn't sure a ballot measure was the best way to go.

"I'm not opposed to it, but I'm not in favor of it," he said. "I'm not entirely certain it's the best strategy."

Fuiten, who said he's working with a team of pastors and other community leaders, said he wants to see how the state Supreme Court rules on gay marriage — a decision expected any week now — before deciding how to move forward.

Eyman filed an initiative and a referendum Monday morning.

"This issue has become hopelessly politicized in Olympia. A highly charged topic like this can only be resolved with a broad airing of the issue," Eyman said. "Let the voters decide because they are the ones who have to live with the consequences."

Referendums, intended to give voters a say on laws passed by the Legislature, need 112,440 valid signatures to get on the ballot. The signatures have to be turned in within 90 days after the legislative session ends. March 9 is the final day of this year's regular session.

Initiatives are generally used to propose new laws to voters, but they also can be used to change existing law.

In this case, Eyman said, his initiative would add language to state law that would make the gay-rights legislation moot.

Eyman needs 224,880 valid signatures to get an initiative to the people on the ballot. The signatures for an initiative don't have to be turned in until July 7.

Eyman is best known for his anti-tax initiatives; however, he got his start in 1997 by co-filing Initiative 200, which banned government from giving preferential treatment to people because of their race, color, sex, national origin or ethnicity. The measure was approved by state voters in 1998.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or agarber@seattletimes.com