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New Bus Ad Hits the Streets: Discrimination Still Happens--And Is Still Illegal
Did the passage of I-200 also affect civil rights laws? On Tuesday, March 2, 1999, sixty Metro buses in Seattle began carrying the following message to dispel any confusion: "Discrimination is still illegal. Report it."
"Weve had many questions lately from people who think that with the passage of I-200, they can no longer challenge discrimination under the law," said Germaine Covington, Director of Seattles Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), which is running the ads. "Discrimination still exists, and so do civil rights protections. Everyone has the possibility of being discriminated against. Its extremely important that every person knows their rights and understands that they have opportunities to take action."
The exterior bus ads will run for the next two months on routes throughout the city. They are running concurrently with SOCRs interior bus ads, which were placed on 275 buses last December, and will run through August 1999. The interior bus placards say, "Dont tolerate discrimination. Stop it," and have a tear sheet with information about discrimination. The bus ads are part of SOCRs anti-discrimination campaign, "We All Belong!" begun in May 1998.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights, a City agency, investigates cases for people experiencing discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations within the Seattle city limits. Their services are free and confidential. In the last year, 192 cases of alleged discrimination were filed at SOCR and 230 were resolved. SOCR has presently reduced their backlog to a record 16 cases, reflecting cases that were filed since February 1, 1999.
Seattles anti-discrimination ordinances are some of the most extensive in the country, including protected classes not covered under state and federal law, such as political ideology, persons with Section 8 certificate/vouchers, and sexual orientation. Last week, the Seattle Fair Employment Practices Ordinance was updated to include a private right of action. This provision was already included in Seattles Fair Housing Ordinance and state and federal anti-discrimination laws, and allowed those included under these laws the right to pursue a case in court. The new provision will become law on March 25, 1999. "Now everyone protected under our anti-discrimination laws has fair and equal access to both the courts and administrative agencies like SOCR to exercise their civil rights," said Covington.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights investigates cases of alleged discrimination, performs policy analysis and research on legislative issues, and provides outreach and education services. SOCR also provides staff support for three advisory commissions, the Seattle Human Rights Commission, the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities, and the Seattle Womens Commission.