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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Bob Oke Bridge: Will Gays and Lesbians Be Allowed to Drive Over It?

posted by on January 16 at 16:15 PM

On Friday January 27, 2006, the Washington state legislature passed a comprehensive gay rights bill—after 29 years of struggle—that banned discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and public accommodation, and credit.

The bill was controversial, of course, and Washington state’s religious bigots were in an uproar. So the galleries were packed when the Senate voted on the final version of the bill that Friday afternoon. According to a Seattle Times reporter, “activity in the Capitol all but halted” while the senators debated the bill. With all eyes on the Senate, State Senator Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) delivered a speech that shocked the gay rights supporters. Here’s the Seattle Times’ account:

Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, gave one of the most gripping speeches, talking to fellow senators about his daughter.

“Having a child who chooses to be homosexual is very painful. I know this because my daughter has chosen the life of a lesbian,” Oke said. “From the very first day she shared with me what her lifestyle was, she has been trying to change me. And I, quite frankly, have been trying to change her.”

Oke said his daughter called a while back and asked to come visit, bringing her partner. “There was a long hesitation on my part and I said, ‘I can’t have that,’ ” he said. “That’s called tough love.”

With the cameras on him, Oke held up a large, framed photograph of the woman he’d just outed—a daughter he refused to accept, a woman whose partner he refused to allow in home—to help make his point. His daughter, Oke continued, wasn’t “right in God’s eyes.” Wow. Father of the year.

“It was incredible sad,” says George Cheung, a founding board member of Equal Rights Washington, who was in a Senate gallery during Oke’s speech. “The hope is that as people will become more accepting of LGBT people when people close to them come out. But that wasn’t true in this case. He turned away his own daughterís partner. It was just so tragic and so last century.”

ďIt was one of the most demoralizing statements Iíve ever heard from another member during my years in Olympia,” says State Sen. Ed Murray. “I donít know his daughter, but I was worried about how any child would react to a parent calling them immoral and showing her picture on the Senate floor like that.”

“I was sitting in the gallery and it was horrific,” says State Representative Jamie Pedersen. “Here’s this guy who was dying of cancer and he’s bragging about how he’s showing character by not letting his daughter come home with her partner. And you think about how misguided and sad that is. That he would cut himself off from his family like that in his final moments.”

Oke died of cancer in May of 2007. And now a Democratic member of the legislature—State Senator Ken Jacobsen—is pushing a “memorial resolution” that would rename the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge in honor of Bob Oke. State Sen. Ken Jacobsen is a Democrat who represents Seattle’s 46th District in the Senate.

I’ve got a call in to Jacobsen’s office. I want to ask the Seattle Dem this: If the bridge is named for Bob Oke, will Washington state’s gays and lesbians be allowed to drive over it?

If the memorial resolution is approved by the Senate it passes to the house, where it might encounter some resistance.

“I would not support naming the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge for Bob Oke,” says Jamie Pedersen, one of four openly gay members of the Washington State House of Representatives.

RSS icon Comments


Will it be renamed the Tacoma Bob Oke Narrowmindedness Bridge?

Posted by A. | January 16, 2008 4:24 PM

The world was a better place when Bob Oke died.

Posted by Touring | January 16, 2008 4:28 PM

Sure, they can drive over it.

Trolls like Bob Oke live under bridges, so it should be ok.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 16, 2008 4:30 PM


Posted by Fonky | January 16, 2008 4:39 PM

I have compassion and pity for backwards, mentally deranged freaks like Oke. But I don't have admiration or respect, both required attributes for someone getting a public work named after them.

Posted by Matthew | January 16, 2008 4:45 PM

The world would be a better place if people stopped naming things after politicians. Any wise politician would oppose this as well. Such naming tends to turn an otherwise benign place or structure into a divisive place or structure. Or worse, such naming could tarnish a much loved place or structure. It's all about personal ego and glory, and no greater good is served. Plus, tradition gets shot to hell. The name of the Tacoma Narrows bridge is part of the regional identity and charm. Renaming it after a politician destroys a generational link.

Exceptions should of course be made for naming after native americans, such as Seattle's namesake. Native Americans should in no way be confused with politicians.

Posted by nightlifejitters | January 16, 2008 4:53 PM

Can we name the bridge for his daughter and her partner instead?

Posted by Mickymse | January 16, 2008 4:55 PM

Micky beat me too it. What's the girl's name? Let's name it after her!

Posted by Y.F. | January 16, 2008 4:57 PM

Don't name the bridge after Oke, but do rename King county to be William Rufus King County, who was, after all, gay.

Posted by raindrop | January 16, 2008 5:19 PM

It's one thing to be a biggot, it's another to take your family bigotry to the senate floor. I guess, because I seem to love to be contradictory in sonsensical ways, I'm curious what I he DID do that gives him the right to have a bridge named after him.

Did he fight in some war? Did he build homes for the homeless? Did he found some church? Did he sponcer some bill that made any ones life better? Bueller?

OR sadly he just happened to be a Republican State Senator who died of cancer (very important that he died of cancer) at around the time the bridge was going to be complete.

Posted by OR Matt | January 16, 2008 5:23 PM

Are you kidding me? Isn't there some human being in WA who's done good for the state and isn't also a documented bigot?

Why not just name the damn bridge after Fred Phelps and be done with it?

Posted by Lauren | January 16, 2008 5:43 PM

Well, assuming his name sounds like "Oki", and they insist on the dubious honor, we'll just have to call it "the Oke-Pokey Bridge".

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | January 16, 2008 6:00 PM

wtf? why dont they name it the david brame bridge? like tacoma doesn't have enough problems already.

Posted by um | January 16, 2008 6:13 PM

We should get an initiative to name the bridge the "Bob Oke was a Bigot" bridge.

Posted by Andrew | January 16, 2008 6:21 PM

So the simple solution is to find someone else important who died of cancer recently ...

Posted by OR Matt | January 16, 2008 6:22 PM

Ken Jacobsen spent much if his time last session pushing a bill to let dogs in bars.

And another one to have the state poet paid in firkins of beer.

What a joke.

Posted by unPC | January 16, 2008 6:27 PM

I am a super hero.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 16, 2008 7:22 PM

No, no, we have to move forward with this. We have to name it after this homophobe.

And then we have to paint it pink. We have to hold an annual Bob Oke Memorial Gay Pride Picnic in the vicinity, marching across it wearing outfits in the poorest taste possible, getting drunk, finalizing gay adoptions, signing DP paperwork, and generally doing everything possible to make this bigoted fucker spin in his grave.

Posted by Gitai | January 16, 2008 7:37 PM

Hope he's enjoying the view from hell. Fuck him.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | January 16, 2008 7:43 PM



Posted by elenchos | January 16, 2008 7:50 PM

Even if there is a suitable civic hero to name something after, why bother? The "naming rights" will eventually be sold to some corporation, probably Brawndo.

The Brawndo Electrolytes Bridge?

I think they should install toll booths in front of such corporate-named bridges... stadiums... churches.. and make all drivers stop and roll their window down and shout the name of the corporation. This may seem onerous at first, but people will get used to it. Then they'll up it to shouting it five times, or you can take an advertising pamphlet instead...

Or maybe an E-Z pass system, if you just write a check to that corporation once per year to prove your fealty.

Okay, Brawndo is a fictitious corp'n not of my making... you folks are in Seattle... do you have a Nike Bridge yet? And why not?

The Microsoft Benefits for LGBT Employees Bridge?

Posted by CP | January 16, 2008 8:13 PM

I agree, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is not an appropriate monument to Bob Oke.

Instead, I propose that the stretch of Highway 101 between Sappho and Beaver be renamed the Bob Oke Memorial Speedway.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 16, 2008 8:35 PM

If anybody is completely undeserving of having something named after them it's that authoritarian asshole. Oke was a horrible father and a horrible senator -- and it's true that the world got a whole lot better 5/15/07 when we were rid of both Oke and Falwell.

Posted by TMW | January 16, 2008 9:56 PM

LGBT cancer survivors have such difficulty finding a way to get to the will be a shame if we create a protest over the naming of this bridge. Understandable to protest, but, we do need to get to the hospital.

Posted by Cancer Survivor | January 17, 2008 7:07 AM

People people, it's all cool. You can cross the bridge if you're homosexual.

You just have to choose to be straight while you're crossing over it. ;)

Posted by Toby | January 17, 2008 8:17 AM

If you check the supporters of this misguided initiative at their website, You'll see that they call it the "Bridge of Faith" -sickening.

Posted by JohnnyC | January 17, 2008 10:11 AM

Bob was good man . A different generation then the folks here , and mis guided about homosexuality .

Not many more respected people who served in Olympia and did so with character , honesty , and sincerity .

Posted by Mick | January 22, 2008 8:25 PM

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