Midday Scan: Outside groups lining up on marriage; Olympia may expand secrecy

A national group mobilizes to help get a referendum against gay marriage on the ballot. Another group talks up a Starbucks boycott on the issue. And legislators want to cut further into the Public Records Act. Members of Congress tussle over light rail on bridge across Columbia to Portland.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber during a 2011 press conference to discuss plans for a new bridge across the Columbia River.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber during a 2011 press conference to discuss plans for a new bridge across the Columbia River. Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr

It sounds like an oxymoron: The National Organization for Marriage aims to defeat Washington's soon-to-be-passed marriage-equality law. (Think of it as a twist on the Orwellian dictum, that all marriages are equal, but some marriages are more equal than others.) As the Seattle Times' Lornet Turnbull writes, a national group has mobilized to ensure a referendum that could ultimately sandbag same-sex marriage in Washington.  

"With same-sex marriage virtually assured in Washington state, opponents seeking to undo it are looking ahead to summer and fall, and to a campaign they say will draw on the resources of national organizations that have waged and won these kinds of fights," Turnbull writes. "A day after the state Senate approved same-sex marriage on a 28-21 vote and moved the bill to the House, where it's expected to pass, the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage (NOM) said it's fully committed to repealing the measure in November."

Washington state as a test case? NOM beware: Sanctimonious outside groups rarely strike a chord with Northwest voters.  

Boycotts have a cachet and, at times, a moral resonance (consider the 1955 Mongomery bus boycott.) More often, however, they're a political gimmick to spur attention and little else. For example, one pastor is targeting Starbucks for its support of marriage equality, mixing twisted logic with an absurdly grandiose vision. "In a message published online a day before Washington's Senate passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, Pastor Steven Andrew of USA Christian Ministries predicted that the Seattle-based coffee giant could lose 80 percent of its customers if Christians get their coffee somewhere else — a number he bases on his contention that 80 percent of Americans are Christian while just 1-to-2 percent of the population is homosexual," King5.com reports. Notwithstanding the appeal of decaffeinating people who choose to do so, why not boycott Microsoft or Google? They also back Washington's marriage-equality bill.

The Washington legislature is trying to defang the state's open-records' law. As the Herald's Scott North writes, lawmakers are using the pretext of frivolous or burdensome requests to curtail access to public records. For investigative journalists, however, messing with the state's seminal 1972 Public Records Act is like bowdlerizing Shakespeare.

North writes, "Our readers and the community have benefited greatly from 'burdensome' records requests. They've helped expose leaky ferries, malfunctioning highway barriers and an off-the-rails red-light camera program, to name just a few. To be sure, good people in government helped us access those records. As often, though, we've encountered officials who, as documented in the attached email string with Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon's spokesman, obstructed lawful access to records, then whined about our refusal to go away." 

Replacing the Columbia River bridge has become a nightmare for Oregon and Washington lawmakers. Mix in a spot of populist grandstanding, and you get that nightmare on steroids. The set-to between Washington freshman Rep. Jaimie Herrera Beutler and Oregon's veteran lawmaker, Rep. Peter DeFaszio, throws light on the conflict. As the Oregonian's Charles Pope writes, "With no notice or consultation with Oregon lawmakers, Herrera Beutler offered language to a sprawling, $260 billion transportation bill that would have required Vancouver to hold — and pay for — a referendum on the $2.45 billion bridge. The existing bridge is outdated and one of the major choke-points along Interstate 5. The referendum would gauge public support for including a light rail as part of the project."  

The outcome of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing was curiously win-win, with DeFazio successfully stripping the transportation bill of Herrera Beutler's provision and Herrera Beutler now able to kvetch to Vancouver constituents, some of whom think light rail is too expensive to include, that she really tried her best.

Lastly, few decisions galvanized Northwest lawmakers more than the Susan G. Komen Foundation's plan to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood. Both Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell issued protest statements, and other members of Washington's congressional delegation quickly followed. This morning, they got their wish. As the AP reports in a story carried by The Seattle Times,, "The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen's iconic image."   


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