A Thurston County Superior Court judge today ruled in favor of a challenge to misleading terms in the proposed ballot title for an initiative that would roll back state protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The challenge was brought by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Northwest Women’s Law Center (NWWLC) on behalf of the League of Women Voters and the Greater Seattle Business Association.
“Under state law, ballot descriptions for initiatives have to be accurate and impartial. We are pleased the court provided language that meets this standard,” said ACLU and NWWLC cooperating attorney Paul Lawrence of K & L Gates, who is representing the plaintiffs, along with colleagues Mathew Segal and Michelle Jensen.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination currently protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, insurance, and credit transactions. Today’s ruling clarified the ballot title for Initiative 963, which seeks to eliminate that protection by removing the term “sexual orientation” from the law.
Agreeing with the challenge, Judge Richard Hicks removed the words "sexual preference" from the initiative’s ballot title. That term was misleading, as it does not actually appear in the statute the initiative seeks to change.
Judge Hicks also clarified the ballot title by changing "extending coverage" to "providing coverage" and by changing "coverage for discrimination" to "coverage against discrimination."
The ballot title now reads as follows:
“This measure would amend the law against discrimination by removing all references providing coverage against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, insurance, and credit transactions.”
The superior court ruling is final, as the statute gives no right to appeal decisions in ballot title challenges.