Washington State Staffer: Gay People Should 'Just Grow Their Own Food' To Deal With Discrimination

Apr 29, 2013 | Updated Apr 29, 2013

Members of Washington state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community should be prepared to fend for themselves, according to the office of a local lawmaker who supports a bill that would allow discrimination because of sexual orientation.

Last week, Washington state Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) introduced Senate Bill 5927, which would allow businesses in the state to deny services to individuals based on religious or philosophical differences. The bill was created as a response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed against a florist in Richland, Wash., who had refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding and cited religious objections to homosexuality.

Currently, Washington state law forbids businesses from refusing services or goods to customers because of sexual orientation.

On Friday, Jay Castro, a reader of Seattle-based blog The Stranger called up one of the bill's co-sponsors, state Senator Mike Hewitt's (R-Walla Walla), to ask why he was supporting the bill. Castro asked a staffer at Hewitt's office a simple question: "What are rural gays supposed to do if the only gas station or grocery store for miles won't sell them gas and food?" The staffer, who refused to identify himself, reportedly told Castro that if such a scenario were to unfold, "gay people can just grow their own food."

When The Stranger's Anna Minard followed up with Hewitt, staff members at first refused to elaborate on the comment, and then later in the day allowed that the call had been mishandled.

"It was a poor response to a question, that's really all I want to say about that," the staffer -- still unidentified -- told Minnard. "He caught me at a bad time; I'm not interested in answering hypotheticals. It was a combative call. Patience was lost, mistakes were made, and that's it."

SB 5927 is currently in committee. Senator Brown has said that the bill is only attempting to protect the religious freedoms of Washington residents, according to the Associated Press. But LGBT advocates disagree.

Equal Rights Washington spokesman Josh Friedes told the AP that the bill "undermines our entire approach to ensuring the equality of all Washingtonians in commerce." He went on to call the proposed legislation "discrimination, pure and simple."

Hewitt did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment.

(Hat tip, ThinkProgress)

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