When Slog reader Jay Castro called state senator Mike Hewitt's (R-Walla Walla) office this morning to ask about Senator Hewitt's co-sponsorship of SB 5927, a bill that would amend our anti-discrimination laws to allow people to discriminate against gays and lesbians because of their "sincerely held religious beliefs," Castro says he was hit with a surprising response: Gay people should be prepared to fend for themselves.
Castro's aware that this bill isn't likely to pass but he tells me, "Regardless of if it's just a publicity stunt, it's my livelihood and my life that's on the line." He added: "I fought very hard for gay rights in Spokane in the '90s, as a kid," and he was horrified to wake up to headlines about this bill. So he spent his morning calling its sponsors to let them know. During the phone calls, he says he asked staffers some variation of the question "What are rural gays supposed to do if the only gas station or grocery store for miles won't sell them gas and food?"
Castro says the staffer at Hewitt's office surprised him with the answer "Well, gay people can just grow their own food." When Castro then asked the male staffer his name, he refused to identify himself, reportedly responding, "I don't have to tell you that," then, "Don't call here again," and hanging up the phone. This happened at around 11:00 this morning.
About an hour after Castro's call, I called Hewitt's office myself to find out if—and more importantly why—government staffers are telling gay people to "grow their own food" if straight Christians don't want to sell them groceries. My conversation was brief, to say the least. When I asked about the bill, the male staffer who answered the phone immediately directed me to a spokesperson for the state Republicans. When I clarified that I was calling to ask about Hewitt's sponsorship of the bill in particular, he said he had no comment.
Then I asked him about the conversation Castro had just had with someone from that office. Did he have any comment on that? "I don't know about that," he said, and hung up the phone. When I called back, someone picked up the phone and then hung it up again. Same thing when I called from another number.
Weird! I guess their phone's broken? Maybe you feel like testing it out yourself: 360-786-7630.
Like I said, this bill ain't gonna pass—because the votes aren't there and because holy shit this bill is backwards and ridiculous—so we didn't make much hay of it on Slog. It's hateful and embarrassing, but it functions more as a roll call of the senators who'd sponsor an awful, bigoted bill like this, and that's helpful, at least.
But confidential to Hewitt's office: If you care to call me back and politely explain your stance, I almost guarantee I won't hang up on you.