Midday Scan: Gay marriage! Religious sensitivities clash and a kill-joy referendum looms

Washington gains a major windfall in the fight for gay marriage. Meanwhile, Washington's between-a-man-and-a-woman purists are already plotting its demise and at least one Westerner is too busy allegedly fomenting Russian revolution to weigh in.

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Washington Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D)

Washington gains a major windfall in the fight for gay marriage. Meanwhile, Washington's between-a-man-and-a-woman purists are already plotting its demise and at least one Westerner is too busy allegedly fomenting Russian revolution to weigh in.

A question for "Miss Manners," Judith Martin: If you gave a couple a snazzy commitment-ceremony gift, are you still obliged to shell out for a wedding present later? Isn't it analogous to a second or third marriage when you can skimp a little? Issues of matrimonial etiquette will be cast in relief after history is made in the Washington legislature. As the Seattle Times' Andrew Garber and Lornet Turnbull write, "Gay-marriage supporters Monday may have clinched the votes needed to pass a bill through the Legislature, but opponents said the fight's far from over."  

Alas, referendum killjoys could put the kibosh on those summer weddings (Here's betting that Macy's and Williams-Sonoma suddenly join Microsoft to support marriage equality. For human rights reasons, of course.)  

"If it passes, gay and lesbian couples in Washington could get married starting in June. But a successful referendum drive would prevent the bill from becoming law until voters decided the issue in November," Garber and Turnbull write. "There would be no window of opportunity for gay marriages before the election, according to the Secretary of State's Office."  

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, a Camano Island Democrat who represents a swing district, was the critical 25th member of the upper chamber to announce her support for marriage equality. For Haugen, as well as for opponents, it's an emotion-laden debate.

As the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes, "The Senate hearing displayed divisions and passions: A Catholic archbishop testified against same-sex marriage. An Evangelican Lutheran Church bishop said congregations that want to marry same-sex couples should be permitted to do so. An Assembly of God pastor arguing against the legislation was followed by a Reform rabbi claiming that religious freedom means allowing gays and lesbians to wed."  

Emotive reactions will come to the fore if opponents corral enough support to put a referendum on the ballot. The question is, will the likely sizeable November 2012 turnout hinder the anti-marriage vote? (Read: mobilized younger voters who approve of gay marriage.)  

We all hate negative political ads. If only they didn't work so well. Washingtonians wanting a preview of an acrimonious marriage campaign should look no further than Oregon's 1st congressional district special election. Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles both employ negative ads that register viscerally with Oregonians.   

"The effectiveness of negative advertising was nicely summed up by Samuel D. Bradley, a Texas Tech advertising professor, and two colleagues who conducted a 2007 study that had people watch commercials put out by Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore during the 2000 presidential race," The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes writes. "After wiring up their test subjects, they discovered that viewers literally had an aversive physical reaction to the negative ads, just as they might if they were confronted with menacing images of snakes or spiders. But they also were better able to recall information from those ads than positive ads."        

It's a Cold War redux as a Northwesterner gives the Russians hell for an odious human rights record. Montana native Michael McFaul, the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, knows how to throw elbows. "In the annals of American diplomacy, few honeymoons have been shorter than the one granted to Michael A. McFaul, who arrived in Russia on Jan. 14 as the new American ambassador," the New York Times' Ellen Barry writes. "Toward the end of the ambassador’s second full day at work, a commentator on state-controlled Channel 1 suggested during a prime-time newscast that Mr. McFaul was sent to Moscow to foment revolution."  

As Thomas Jefferson said, a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing. Moreover, McFaul is on the right side of history. Barry writes, "Mr. McFaul, 48, has arrived in a city churning with conjecture and paranoia. The public attack illustrates how edgy the Kremlin is about the protest movement that has taken shape, turning Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s re-election campaign into a nerve-racking test for the government."  

Lastly, does Boise, the city with the motto "Energy, Peril, Success," have a sense of humor? Not Josh Gross, a scribe for the Boise Weekly, who is critical of the hit television show, Portlandia. "The problem is that much of the humor functions with a structure similar to racist jokes, in which viewers are encouraged to despise the characters," Gross writes.  Oh, brother.  

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "Gay marriage in Washington: Legislature has the votes"

Seattlepi.com, "Same-sex marriage: Senate majority and a likely public vote"

Oregonian, "Voters gripe about negative ads in Oregon congressional race, but signs are that they work" 

The New York Times, "New U.S. envoy steps into glare of a Russia eager to find fault"

Boise Weekly, "Portlandia: the white subcultural equivalent of a minstrel show" 


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson