Legislation passed late Friday by the House would establish a state commission to identify concerns specific to LGBTQ individuals and apply those concerns to inform practices and policies at state agencies.
“Many members of our community face an extreme and disproportionate risk of violence, discrimination and other challenges based merely on their identity,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the sponsor of Senate Bill 5356. “This action is needed to ensure that LGBTQ people receive the same consideration and protections against discrimination guaranteed all other Washingtonians under our state constitution.”
The legislation would create a state LGBTQ Commission whose membership, appointed by the governor, must provide for a balanced and diverse representation of race and ethnicity, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and occupation.
Among other things, the commission would consult with state agencies about the effects of agency policies and practices on the unique problems and needs of LGBTQ people, and advise agencies on the development and implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies, plans and programs to address those needs.
“There are times when our state policies, however well-intended, fail to account for members of our community whose needs may not be as obvious or universally shared,” Wilson said. “At other times, policies intended to help and serve a particular community end up doing the opposite. This commission will be a valuable resource to the public and to our state agencies that serve us.”
Acknowledging the skepticism of lawmakers who questioned the need for the commission, Wilson said their doubts illustrated the very need for the commission.
“If you’ve lived in a community with limited diversity, and your friends and acquaintances tend to look and talk like you, you may have no way of knowing the challenges and inequities faced by those outside your circle,” Wilson said. “This commission can make sure those challenges are known, understood, and addressed.”
Having been amended by the House, the bill now goes back to the Senate for reconsideration.