San Juan County voters pass one of the strongest anti-discrimination policies in the country

Submitted by San Juan County Charter Review Commission.

With the certification of the election last week, San Juan County voters have passed some of the strongest anti-discrimination policies of any government in the Nation. Known simply as County Charter Amendment Proposition No. 5, this amendment formally establishes a section on “Non-Discrimination” in the San Juan County Charter. San Juan County was one of two home rule charter counties among seven in Washington State that did not have a ‘Non-Discrimination’ section in its Charter, or “local constitution” as many refer to it. The voters in the County decided to change that.

This is a tremendous victory for those who believe that everyone who resides in San Juan County should be free from discrimination and marginalization. This amendment goes beyond federal and state non-discrimination legislation and prohibits discrimination based on body type, status as a veteran who was discharged solely because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, and status as a care provider for dependents. This section of the Charter also obligates the County to ensure that entities contracted by the county for the provision of professional services adhere to the non-discrimination provisions in this section.

Another voter approved change was a new Preamble to the Charter that begins with an acknowledgement to honor the Coast Salish first peoples of San Juan County making it the first County Charter to include such an important recognition of the Coast Salish Tribes who have called this place home since time immemorial.

“The approval by the electorate of the Non-Discrimination Section in our Charter represents an important milestone for our County. One’s status as an unpaid care giver for dependents, be they children, the elderly or the disabled can present significant challenges for people working in the labor force, and should not be a basis upon which an employer can discriminate against an employee. Personally, I have experienced such discrimination. Fortunately, this and other forms of discrimination specified in this charter amendment are now illegal in San Juan County.” said Jane Fuller, Co-Chair of the Charter Review Commission Subcommittee on Justice and Equity.

Subcommittee Co-Chair Kyle Davies added “‘justice for all’ should not ring hollow no matter where it is uttered or by whom. For too long we have not held ourselves to account for recognizing others… all others… and ensuring their equal footing in our society. Our electorate has seen the essential value of the rights of all and has stepped forward to address past oversights including the role of indigenous peoples in our region’s past and present.”

“It is estimated that over 100,000 Americans received other than honorable discharges

due to their sexual orientation or identity.” Said Charter Review Commission Chair Kevin Ranker. “Hopefully San Juan County is only the first of many governments who ensures that all those who served our country, regardless of whom they love, will be honored and not discriminated against” he continued.