Monday, October 22, 2007

A Cheryl Haskins supporter speaks out

I received this message via my posting on Craiglist:

EVERYTHING you are saying is TRUE!

But so what?!

Cheryl is a MORE than qualified candidate.

Who cares where this FIRST-TIME candidate’s money is coming from? Have you ever started a new venture and convinced complete strangers to invest in your dream? If so, bravo to you! You failed to mention her church member’s contributions that OWN businesses in Renton.

And as far as the gay issue, get over it. They fight for what they believe in and she fights for what she believes in. That’s what a leader does.


I’m sure she appreciates the free publicity!

My reply:
(I've made a couple of minor edits)

Well, at least you're not calling me a liar! I appreciate that fact.

Would it be OK for me to tell you to "get over it" if a candidate was anti-Jewish or a white supremacist? I know, comparing antisemitism and racism with homophobia is a hot-button issue, and I'm not making a direct comparison. What I'm trying to say is that for me and others, Cheryl's work against gay rights (including anti-discrimination legislation) is as hurtful and dehumanizing as any other form of targeted antipathy towards a particular group. I'm sorry you're unable to put yourself in my shoes, and I understand if it's a religious thing for you (and Cheryl). But I have every right to oppose Cheryl's candidacy on such grounds, and the vast majority of people in our diverse community don't want someone like Cheryl in office.

The amount of money Cheryl's getting from her church friends is completely ridiculous for a campaign for city council, and even the Public Disclosure Commission is concerned by it. It hasn't gone unnoticed by Renton voters or leaders, either.

No, I haven't run for office before, but if I did, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to secure tens of thousands of dollars from my friends. Normally, a "first time candidate" has a really difficult time getting donations, and usually has to take out loans to pay for the campaign. Shirley Gaunt-Smith, bless her heart, is in that position. Cheryl, on the other hand, seems to have unlimited funding at her disposal. She can outspend her opponent -- a well-liked, well-respected community leader -- by a factor of at least 6 to 1. That just isn't right, and indicates that special interests are trying to influence the election.

As for free publicity for Cheryl, I'm all for it! The more people who make an informed decision about who to vote for, the better. If they choose to vote for Cheryl, then so be it.

I'm sure Cheryl is an excellent leader and a good person (despite her dogmatic exterior), but she has too much baggage to represent all the people of Renton.


MConway said...

Renton Citizen, I am not gay, and I find Haskins's anti-gay beliefs appalling.

I couldn't agree with you more: a candidate must not be allowed to hide such beliefs such beliefs. She is free to think that gay people are second-class citizens. She is free to think that gay people are going to hell. But in my mind, both of those beliefs say a lot about the kind of person she is.

True, I don't know her. Maybe she's a lovely human being. But anyone who has spent as much time working—working hard!—to deny fellow citizens all the rights of citizenship is not my ideal candidate.

Anonymous said...

I just do not buy your broad brush condemnation of a qualified candidate, based on who her husband is, and who he knows. Even if one were to accept this shaky premise, guilt by association is not a legitimate argument. The statement "she is free to think gay people are going to hell" is purposely inflammatory. How do you know what she believes? Advocating against same sex marriage is a legitimate, main stream issues, and does not come close your claims. No matter where anyone comes down on that issue, it has very little to do with the business of running the city of Renton, and that is what this election is about.

Renton Citizen said...

You're right - simply being against same-sex marriage isn't outside of the mainstream and has nothing to do with running a city. However, making the issue the primary focus of one's recent professional career *is* a big deal. Not only that, but Cheryl Haskins' own organization (not her husband's) has demonstrated that it's not just against gay marriage, but it's against *any* sort of anti-discrimination measures for gay people, and is against domestic partnership protections. Read the transcripts for testimony provided in opposition to HB 2661 and SB 5336. Her anti-gay efforts have actually been far more public than her husband's, so his association with an extremist like Ken Hutcherson is secondary.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting the Haskins campain is gathering such a large purse as I haven't seen much of her impact in the Renton community, unlike the other candidates. What demographics is she actually targeting?

My concern resides in her accumulated campaign finances from outside doners. How is that a representation of Renton? I'd would rather not support someone that has a fundamental disdain for fair rights for those in a same sex partnership.

Anonymous said...

To the “Renton Citizen”; I find this debate interesting and stimulating, but I have come to the obvious conclusion that we, agree to disagree, with regard to your efforts to defeat Cheryl. Just so you know, my support for Cheryl has nothing to do the gay issue. I am a conservative and a Christian, but I do not support or encourage discrimination or attacks on people because of sexual orientation. My college roommate is a gay man, who I consider to be a good friend. Those that call homosexuality an “abomination” like on the video clip you posted, are so far off base with the Christian doctrine. They remind of the Pharisee, that challenged Jesus based on strict rule of law versus the true grace of God. They are foolish to think they are going to heaven, and those who disagree are going to Hell. “All have come short of the glory of God” (that includes all of us).

Now, that being said, the reasons I object to your efforts have more to do with the divisiveness of the arguments, where I see very little relevance. (Yes, I know our side uses divisiveness on some issue also, and I do not advocate that tactic). So, in a respectful way, this is my response to the allegations used against Cheryl. Reject them, accept them, but know that there are those of us out here that feel the same way;

 Her association through her husband with Ken Hutchinson- I think you and I have covered this already, I do not see as relevant. Individuals are capable of radically different opinions (I know first hand, just ask my wife!) Because Ken uses harsh language does not definitely mean the she has those same thoughts? She appears to be a strong willed woman, capable of forming her own opinions.
 $ Money raised from outside of Renton- Like the original comment; I really do not see a problem with this. If an outsider wants to contribute to the community against an entrenched incumbent, getting funds anyway possible is the only method. King Parker is well know in Renton, and I would say his past service and name recognition is worth far more than the $ raised by Cheryl. The fact is, both sides of the political spectrum rely on outside funds to try to counter the natural benefits of incumbency. The other thing is , you assume all those who live outside of Renton should have not voice. What about those that live in Bellevue, but work in Renton? I know I live here, and work in Bellevue, and 60% of my life is in Bellevue- and that should not preclude me from supporting a candidate in a council race there.
 Now, the biggest issue- Allies for Marriage and Children efforts on the 2 state laws you mentioned; I did read the testimonies, and my take is different from yours (probably not a big surprise). She sees that (I am prone to agree) that these are efforts to circumvent the will of the citizens of Washington and the State Supreme Court in redefining marriage from a man and woman. Most of the rights expressed in those bills are already available to same sex couples, albeit with some extra up front effort via legal contracts. The issue is passage of these bills will make it easier to use the legislature and courts to chip away at the marriage issue, ultimately leading to same sex marriages being dictated against the majority of what people want.

My effort here is not to change your mind, but just let you know that there are those of us who do not follow orthodoxy to form our opinions, and I do not want to see folks like Cheryl be caught in these skirmishes. Other than the city council race, I get the impression that you and I probably agree on more issues that we might think.

Renton Citizen said...

Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I can tell that a lot of consideration and effort that went into them.

First off, would you agree that Cheryl's past (and present) public affiliations are relevant to her candidacy? Even if you personally feel that they're unrelated to how she'd serve on the city council, can you understand why others would feel differently?

I, like many Americans, believe that we live in a secular society, and that public policies based on strict religious ideologies only lead to oppression and divisiveness. Like Afghanistan under the Taliban, or Saudi Arabia under Wahhabism... or Salem under the Puritans. I'm sure you disagree with me, and that's OK. I don't discount the role religion has played in our society, but I do not believe it is the basis of our modern Democracy.

I think your argument in defense of Cheryl's outside funding is extremely weak. Her funding is extraordinarily immense, especially for an unknown candidate. Yes, King Parker is well known, and outspending him by a factor of, say, two to one might be reasonable, especially if the money came from within our community. But Cheryl's funding is so far out of whack that it's beyond reasonable. I'm pretty sure most people in Renton, once they see the numbers, will feel the same way.

While I appreciate the fact that you don't agree with the divisive tactics used by the Religious Right, it's not clear to me that you really grasp the visceral impact that such tactics have had on people such as myself. Since I was a young boy, I've had to listen to the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and now Ken Hutcherson spew venom that's anything but Christian -- and I knew that I was the target of their hostility. You'll have to forgive me for feeling the need to protest the candidacy of someone who's allied with such people, even if her connections to them are tangential.

Our society has made a lot of progress in the past couple of decades with regard to accepting gay people, and here in Washington State, we're far better off than our brothers and sisters in, say, Alabama or Oklahoma, where gay people are routinely harassed, discriminated against in employment in housing, and assaulted. Of course, then there are the gay people in places like Iran and Nigeria, who live under the constant threat of imprisonment and execution. Even in places like Latvia, which you wouldn't necessarily think of as backwards or conservative, gay people are the target of violence and hatred, thanks in part to Ken Hutcherson's efforts.

As I've learned from friends in Virginia (where I lived for a while), it is foolish and dangerous to believe that today's legal protections for gay people will not be challenged or ultimately reversed. I have a degree in history, and if there's one single historical lesson from the 20th Century that stands out to me, it's how the vibrant culture of Weimar Germany was abruptly snuffed out by the rise of the fascism. Now, I certainly don't think people such as you are fascists by any means, but there are definitely a lot of powerful folks within the Religious Right who will not be satisfied until our country is controlled by one (fundamentalist Christian) ideology, with people like me either forced to live a lie (like, say, Ted Haggard), or face complete marginalization. Or worse.

Finally, you seem to have bought the argument that everything would be fine if gay couples just went out and had legal documents drawn up to protect their interests. How many young people do you know that are willing to spend money on such agreements? Even then, such documents still will not necessarily protect the couple if they are contested in court by biological family members. As far as I'm concerned, we pay taxes and are entitled to at least basic legal protections in our relationships. Again, I believe we live in a secular society, so religious arguments "in defense of marriage" carry no weight with me. And trust me, I will not be swayed by arguments that we live in a Christian nation -- I'm well aware of those arguments, and disagree with them.

I have no doubt that you and I probably agree on more things than we disagree on. Like supporting family and friends, enjoying life, being a good citizen, valuing education, and caring for people in need. I'm sure Cheryl and I, and even Ken Hutcherson, could all agree on those values. The problem is that Cheryl has worked very hard to prevent me from obtaining the basic rights that she enjoys in a committed relationship, and the protections that she has against racial, gender, and religious discrimination. Her work against the anti-discrimination bill is particularly difficult to grasp in that context, but I know that people have different ideas about what constitutes discrimination, especially when they think that homosexuality is a chosen behavior and not a intrinsic identity or an inborn trait.

Barring any Weimar Germany-like situations, I fully expect that American society will have accepted gay people as first-class citizens when I retire in 30 years or so. That doesn't mean you're going to see gay couples forcing your church to perform marriage ceremonies. Obviously, it will take rational people such as you and I to come up with reasonable compromises that provide gay people with the rights they deserve, but respect the religious values of others.

Thanks again for contributing to the discussion.

mconway said...

renton citizen wrote:
"Her work against the anti-discrimination bill is particularly difficult to grasp in that context, but I know that people have different ideas about what constitutes discrimination, especially when they think that homosexuality is a chosen behavior and not a intrinsic identity or an inborn trait."

Yeah, well, one's religion is a chosen behavior. (I understand that freedom of religion is explicitly protected by the Constitution.) I'm just saying that the "chosen behavior vs. inborn trait" distinction is irrelevant.

All Americans (all people!) should be free to live their own lives according to their consciences, their inborn traits, or whatever.

That some people work so hard to deny other Americans their freedom is, yes, appalling.

Renton Citizen said...

Yep, I agree with you, but people who truly believe that being gay is a sin and a personal "choice" just aren't going to listen to such arguments. The only thing we can do is just make sure that their personal religious beliefs don't dictate public policy. We'll probably need to make compromises, like in the UK, where gay people can now have Civil Partnerships, which have the rights and privileges of civil marriage, but without the marriage label. Personally, I'm OK with that arrangement, although many gay people would argue that it still relegates us to "separate but equal" status.

If the UK, along Andorra, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain Sweden, South Africa, Switzerland, and Uruguay avoid being destroyed by God's wrath in the next few years, I think we'll probably be in a better position to advocate for similar legislation in our country, on a federal level. Hopefully, such legislation will include the ability to file joint tax returns and receive social security benefits after a partner's death. But we've got a long and ugly struggle ahead of us.

Renton Citizen said...

Anonymous: here's something for you to read...


Dear Ken,

[Ed. Note - The following letter was sent to KOMO commenator Ken Shramm. The author also sent us a copy.]

As a gay man, I was delighted to hear the news that the gay civil rights bill was signed into law here in Washington. I finally felt as though I can be treated as more than a 3rd class citizen. When I heard the news, I looked at one of my work peers and told her. She responded by asking me if I felt like I am discriminated against. A million thoughts went through my mind when she asked me that. The answer of course was yes, but one discriminating factor stood out more than any of the others.

My partner has MS, along with many other health issues. A couple years ago, he underwent a major surgery in which he didn't respond well to the analgesics. I waited in the waiting room for 7 to 8 hours. I was finally told by the waiting room host that he would be coming out of the recovery room and into a hospital room. I was told what room he would be going to. I went to that room and waited 2 more hours. Finally, about 2 in the morning, a nurse came to the room with a security guard by her side. The first words out of the nurses mouth was a demand as to where my partner's mother was. I told the nurse that Kelly's mom lives in Idaho. She asked me if I was Kelly's partner. I told her I was.

She told me I need to leave the premises immediately. When I asked why, she explained that I need to leave now. When I began to explain that I have medical power of attorney, the security guard got in my face and screamed that that I need to leave. I had no explanation. The next day, my partner's mother came to the hospital. She was outraged that I was treated in such a matter. Being she is a retired nurse, she asked for the right people to come down and explain what had happened. Several people came to Kelly's room and I was allowed to describe how I felt that night but I was unsuccessful.

I don't think there are words to describe that feeling. I did ask the hospital to give me a formal apology for what happened. I never received that apology. This is just one of many reasons why I feel I have been discriminated against. So you can only imagine the joy I felt when I heard the news about the gay rights bill. But today, that joy was stricken with a cat of-nine-tails. I heard the word that Tim Eyman is pushing an initiative that would remove this law. I did a search to find an email address so I can write Tim myself. I was unsuccessful. If I could speak to Tim, I would tell him that I have supported and voted for some of the initiatives he has brought to the public. I would also like to ask him why it is so important for him to allow gays and lesbians to continue to be discriminated against. I would further explain to him that if I find that he is indeed pushing an initiative that would allow me to continue to be mistreated, humiliated, abused and discriminated against, then this gay man will never support any initiative he brings to the public again, and this gay man will vote against them all. One last thing, while I was researching for a way to contact Tim,

I found a website that I never even knew existed. It is called,, a site dedicated to stopping Tim. Due to the information I learned today that Tim Eyman may have a prejudice toward gays and lesbians, this website is really starting to look compeling to me.

Thank you,