Bills would strike back at transgender, same-sex marriage issues

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, has introduced a bill that would retroactively prohibit the state of Washington from taking action against Arlene’s Flowers.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, has introduced a bill that would retroactively prohibit the state of Washington from taking action against Arlene’s Flowers. Washington State House Republicans

A bill that would retroactively protect businesses that choose not to provide services for same-sex marriages was introduced Monday in the state Legislature by Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick.

Klippert is one of 37 cosponsors on another bill intended to override a new state rule requiring buildings open to the public to allow transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms for the gender by which they identify.

Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo has requested a discussion of both bills be added to the agenda of Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Klippert initially was the only sponsor of the bill addressing same-sex marriage services. But other state representatives are interested in adding their names to it, he said.

Case against Arlene’s Flowers in Richland would be retroactively covered by bill.

The bill would be retroactive to any claim filed on or after Dec. 6, 2012, in which the highest court of appeals has not issued a ruling as of July 31, 2016.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington in December 2012 after a majority of state voters approved Referendum 74 in the November general election. A few months later, Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, refused to provide flowers for the wedding of longtime customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.

A Benton County Superior Court judge ruled 11 months ago that Stutzman broke the law when she told Ingersoll she couldn’t provide services for his wedding because of her religious beliefs. Stutzman is a Christian from the Southern Baptist tradition.

Stutzman has appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court. The state has argued that the flower shop violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

Klippert wants to make sure that people and the government understand they cannot supersede the state or federal Constitutions, both of which guarantee freedom of religion, he said.

Klippert said bill would show that state law cannot supercede Constitution.

Klippert’s proposed bill, H-2631, would give a person or business the legal right to choose whether to provide services at a same-sex marriage, based on their conscience, religious belief or philosophical tenet.

The state would not be allowed to take action against them or withhold any benefit, ranging from not allowing them a charitable tax deduction to denying them a job or contract.

Klippert calls the bill the “protection of the free exercise of religious beliefs and rights of conscience regarding marriage as the union of one man and one woman act.”

The bill addressing transgender restroom use, H-2589, had its first reading Friday and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, also is a co-sponsor.

Klippert signed onto the bill, but is waiting for Republican leadership to decide whether they prefer a single bill or multiple bills to address the new rule created by the Washington State Human Rights Commission, he said. It took effect Dec. 26.

Klippert interested in more restrictive transgender bathroom bill.

H-2589 would allow businesses or other entities to restrict the use of restrooms, showers, locker rooms and saunas to people with the same genitalia as others using the facility.

Klippert is interested in going a step further and allowing restrictions based on DNA, which would cover those whose genitalia has been altered by a surgery.

The bill now assigned to the House Judiciary Committee would allow a caregiver, such as a parent, to take a child or a person with a disability who needed assistance into the restroom assigned to the caregiver’s gender.

The agenda for the Kennewick City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday has already been posted. Trumbo said on Monday that he is requesting a discussion of the two bills be added rather than wait for the next meeting in two weeks. The state Legislature is scheduled to meet for just 60 days this year.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews