Washington campaigners seeking to overturn a new gay civil rights law have met a strong group of opponents fighting to keep the recently approved ban on discrimination in housing, employment and insurance.

According to the Associated Press, the Washington Won’t Discriminate campaign began in response to two ballot measures seeking to challenge the new law, signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire last month.

The group’s website went live this past week, and organisers said they are starting to mobilise support across the state. Washington Won’t Discriminate is composed of members from groups including Equal Rights Washington and the Pride Foundation, as well as community leaders from around the state.

“We know it’s important to organise quickly and speak strongly and clearly about how wrong it is to put someone else’s rights up for a public vote,” said Anne Levinson, the campaign’s chairwoman.

A number of influential groups have already voiced their support, including the Washington Association of Churches and the Anti-Defamation League as well as some small businesses.

“The immediate task is to reach out to a broad coalition,” she said. “This is not going to be a Seattle-centric effort. This is a state-wide effort.”

The measure passed by the Legislature and signed by Ms Gregoire adds “sexual orientation” to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and credit. The fight to get the bill into law spanned nearly 30 years.

Washington is the 17th state to adopt such laws covering gays and lesbians, and the seventh to protect transgender people.

The law is set to take effect in June, 90 days after the end of the Legislature’s session. But if opponent Jim Eyman gets enough signatures by the June 7 deadline for a referendum, the law will be frozen until a November vote on whether it should be overturned.

Additionally, Mr Eyman is pushing an initiative that would remove “sexual orientation” from the law completely and would ban state government from requiring quotas or other preferential treatment for any person or group “based on sexual orientation or sexual preference.”

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