Initiative 13

Seattle, though located on the opposite corner of the country, would not be immune from Anita Bryant’s efforts in Dade County, Florida or the nationwide effort to repeal similar ordinances. In January 1978, two Seattle police officers filed Initiative 13 and called their organization Save Our Moral Ethics, or SOME. However, the Seattle community launched an aggressive counter campaign against the local effort to repeal the anti-discrimination ordinances.

Two different approaches to fight the initiative demonstrated the diversity within the community.

One of the groups, Citizens to Retain Fair Employment (CRFE) was made up mostly of businessmen who worked within the established channels of Seattle’s political powers. CRFE tended to characterize the fight as a privacy issue rather than as a gay issue.

On the other hand, Seattle Committee Against Thirteen/Women Against Thirteen (SCAT/WAT) were of a more leftist and radical bent, characterizing the initiative as an attack on gay and lesbian people, and connecting gay rights to other civil rights and social justice causes.

On November 7, Seattle voters rejected Initiative 13 by 63% to 37%. 1978 proved to be an important if ambivalent year in gay and lesbian politics; the anti-gay wave that defeated non-discriminatory legislation in Wichita, Kansas, St. Paul, Minnesota and Eugene, Oregon earlier in the year, was countered by the same day defeat of Initiative 13 in Seattle and the similar Briggs Initiative in California.

The tensions over political strategy that came to light in the Initiative 13 battle continue to shape the gay and lesbian community today.