The headline from the Walla Walla Union Bulletin on April 30th, 2013:
And the headline on May 1st, 2013:
This incident started because of a bill Senator Hewitt co-sponsored, SB 5927, “Concerning the right to engage in commerce free from discrimination.” SB 5927 was introduced as a result of a lawsuit filed against a Richland florist, Barronelle Stutzman, because she declined to work a same-sex marriage due to her religious objections. She faces the Washington State Attorney General, who accuses her of violating anti-discrimination laws.
When the same-sex law was passed last year, supporters of the bill argued that the bill provided sufficient protections for private business owner wishing to exercise their right of conscience. That turns out to not be the case, especially since the same supporters are now incensed that SB 5297 has introduced. SB 5297 is intended to protect the “right of an individual or entity to deny services” if providing those services is contrary to their “sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs or matters of conscience.” This is a basic right under the First Amendment, and should be protected.
The unfortunate response from Senator Hewitt’s staffer has been dealt with in a quick and professional matter. The response from others has been equally swift. The Union-Bulletin reported that “there were organizations ‘all over the place’ calling for a boycott of Walla Walla wines and cancellation of visits to Walla Walla.”
One man was quoted as saying: “Who knows if there will be any real impact at the end of the day, but Walla Walla will be framed in a negative fashion. I think it shows a disconnect to who (Hewitt’s) constituents really are.”
Senator Hewitt had this to say in the latest WWUB article:
“These people have rights of their own,” Hewitt said. “We did not think this lady was supposed to be able to get sued.”
His own stand on gay marriage is “ambivalent,” Hewitt said. “When I am in a legislative situation, I could care less one way or the other. But I can tell you, the comments I am getting are thank you’s for supporting the silent minority. A lot of these people won’t speak up and say anything.”
This is not about discriminating against same-sex marriage. This is about preserving the rights of Americans to follow their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution and retaliation, and the rights of business owners to limit their participation in something they do not believe in. Senator Hewitt is supporting the religious liberties and rights of Washington State residents.
If you are a member of the “silent majority”, please follow your conscience, and support him by sending words of encouragement. You can contact him through his Legislature web site.