Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: First Amendment

May
7th

No rosebuds for discriminating against gay customers

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have rallied around a Richland florist who is being sued by the state attorney general’s office and the ACLU for refusing to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding. But the core issue isn’t same-sex marriage; it’s the consumer’s right not to face discrimination.

Florist Barronelle Stutzman says she is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage because of her Christian beliefs, and she has every right to hold that opinion. She just doesn’t have the right to impose it in the commercial marketplace.

State anti-discrimination and consumer protection law is clear: Merchants cannot refuse goods and service to someone because of race, creed, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, military status or disability.

Would Stutzman’s supporters defend her if she Read more »

April
7th

NRA strategy: Squelch free speech and scientific research

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Hypocrisy, thy name is NRA.

The National Rifle Association fiercely defends the Second Amendment rights of some people – in part by trying to quash the First Amendment rights of others.

It’s one way the organization has worked to prevent information on guns from getting out – information badly needed in efforts to curb the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

An example: In 2011, the NRA actually got encoded in Florida law a gag order barring doctors from talking to their patients about guns in the home. Not only did this infringe on medical providers’ freedom of speech, it interfered with the doctor-patient relationship. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors counsel patients on firearm-injury prevention.) Read more »

Nov.
17th

It’s official: PDC was wrong, Washam recallers were right

Lost in the din on election day was a sweet little moral victory for the people who tried to recall Dale Washam last year.

One of the many mini-dramas in the recall attempt was the way the Public Disclosure Commission stomped on the signature-gathering campaign before it even got started.

Robin Farris, who led the effort to unseat Pierce County’s flamboyantly incompetent assessor-treasurer, had been getting pro bono legal assistance from two public-spirited Tacoma attorneys, Tom Oldfield and Jeff Helsdon. They helped her negotiate the recall petition through a legal obstacle course that finally ended with its approval by the Washington Supreme Court.

In the process, the PDC decided that Farris had violated the state’s campaign finance laws – which then capped individual contributions to candidates at $800 – by accepting an estimated $20,000 worth of donated help from Oldman and Helsdon. The commission insisted on equating a recall effort to a candidate’s election campaign, and it continued to do so; as a result, Farris’ efforts were hobbled financially for months.

Finally, a libertarian outfit based in Virginia, the Institute for Justice, fought the PDC on behalf of Farris’ campaign and won an injunction that let her raise more money. The PDC challenged the ruling and the case bounced around the federal judiciary.
Read more »

June
24th

How the justices broke on the R-71 decision

People who take a “Rah, rah, our team won!” approach to Supreme Court decisions may overlook some important things about Thursday’s ruling about public disclosure and Referendum 71.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, who defended Washington’s Public Records Act, won a battle he shouldn’t have had to fight.

The people who collected signatures to put R-71 on the November ballot had asked U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle to prevent the state’s release of their petitions. Settle granted the injunction on astonishingly broad grounds, holding that they were likely to succeed in arguing that the First Amendment could require that any petition – not just theirs – be sealed upon request.

That conclusion seemed absurd, but the high court took the claim seriously enough to review it. McKenna wound up having to play defense in a game with very high stakes.

Thursday’s ruling was a matter of dodging an asteroid few people had seen coming. As far as R-71 – by itself – is concerned, the fight remains to be fought in a trial court. It will turn on whether the petitioners can produce believable evidence that they were genuinely threatened by gay-rights supporters.
Read more »