Initiative 1000, to repeal the Washington Civil Rights Act

By PAUL GUPPY  | 
LEGISLATIVE MEMO
|
Feb 11, 2019

Download the full Legislative Memo


Key Findings

  1. Initiative 1000 would allow public officials to use a person’s race, gender or ethnicity in the administration of public benefits.
  2. In 1998, voters passed Initiative 200 to bar the use of race, gender or ethnic discrimination by public officials in Washington state.  I-1000 seeks to repeal the I-200 law.
  3. Discrimination would be allowed at all levels of government; state, county and city, and in public schools and universities.
  4. Initiative 1000 would change the technical definition of “preferential treatment” so that it doesn’t include affirmative action.
  5. I-1000 is supported by the One Washington Equality Campaign and by Governor Jay Inslee.
  6. In addition to I-200 supporters, I-1000 is opposed by the Washington Asians For Equality, which fears Asian-Americans will become subject to government-sponsored discrimination.
  7. I-1000 opponents say a policy of non-discrimination is the right principle, and that government officials should not go back to favoring or dis-favoring people based on their perceived appearance.

Introduction

Supporters of a measure to repeal the Washington Civil Rights Act report they have collected over 387,00 signatures, well beyond the 260,000 valid signatures needed to submit the measure to the Legislature.  Once it is received, lawmakers have three options: they can pass Initiative 1000 as written; they can do nothing and send the measure to voters on the 2019 November ballot; or they can enact an amended version, in which case both the amended version and the original version of Initiative 1000 would be sent to voters.

If passed, the Initiative would repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1998 and permit state and local officials to use a person’s race, gender or ethnicity as a factor in deciding who may receive or be denied public benefits.

Background

The Washington State Civil Rights Act was passed as Initiative 200 in 1998.  The measure passed by 58.2% to 41.8% and received a majority vote in 38 of the state’s 39 counties.  Polling indicates a majority of men, women, independents and union members supported the initiative.

Previously, public officials had used the race, ethnicity, national origin and gender of citizens as a factor in making decisions about hiring, contracting and college admissions.  Passage of Initiative 200 ended this practice.  The law states: 

“The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

The prohibition on discrimination applies to officials at all levels of government; the state, cities, counties, colleges and universities, school districts and other local jurisdictions.  It bars officials from using their perception of a person’s race, gender or ethnicity in a way that harms or benefits any resident of the state. 

The initiative includes exceptions for public bathrooms, medical privacy, psychological treatment, athletic teams, undercover law enforcement, and casting for film, video, radio and live performances. 

The measure did not affect any court order or consent decree that was in force on the date of enactment.

Download the full Legislative Memo