Inside Opinion

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Tag: gay rights

May
1st

Scouts need live-and-let-live policy on gay leaders

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Most of the argument over gay Boy Scouts and Scout leaders tends to overlook the structure of the Boy Scouts of America.

The BSA administration itself does not run Scout troops, Cub packs, etc. Its employees provide training, insurance and other support for the “chartered organizations” whose volunteers help kids earn merit badges, take them on campouts, etc.

Many of those organizations are religious in nature and operate with great autonomy. Conservative Mormon, Roman Catholic and Baptist congregations by themselves run most troops and packs. Often their Scout leaders amount to youth ministers.

It’s arrogant to insist Read more »

Nov.
22nd

A new normal this Thanksgiving?

For your Thanksgiving Day reading, Cokie and Steve Roberts write about the changing American family sitting down today for the feast. Does it look a little like yours?

THE NEW AMERICAN FAMILY

By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts

We all know the famous Norman Rockwell painting of a typical American family gathered around Grandma as she serves up a huge turkey. If Rockwell were painting today, his portrait of a Thanksgiving feast would have to include gay Uncle Kevin and perhaps a niece who’s brought her girlfriend home from college. (He might also sketch in the new Chinese daughter-in-law, but that’s another story.)

The American family is changing rapidly, and so are attitudes about same-sex marriage. In the last election, three states voted to approve the institution (Maryland, Maine and Washington), and one, Minnesota, rejected a move to ban it. The focus on Barack Obama’s re-election, and the attention paid to the critical Latino vote, obscured this historic milestone. Read more »

Jan.
5th

It’s time to extend rights of marriage to same-sex couples

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

State lawmakers will have a lot on their plates Monday when they return to Olympia and address the budget shortfall as well as Thursday’s state supreme court ruling on education funding.

But they should also take the opportunity this session to pass landmark legislation proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and expand the legal rights of marriage to homosexual couples.

Gregoire is proposing that the Legislature legalize same-sex marriage, which would make Washington the seventh state to allow such unions after Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The District of Columbia also allows same-sex marriage.

It is the right thing to do. Read more »

Sep.
19th

A landmark day for gays in the military – and for equality

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

It’s a new world for the U.S. military today, and for the people serving in it.

It’s a world that took too long to come about, but now that it’s here, it’s worth celebrating.

Today, gays and lesbians – who have always served in the military and died alongside their heterosexual comrades – no longer need to fear that they’ll be kicked out if a supervisor learns about their sexuality. They can put a photo of their partner on their desk, go out on a date and do all the other things their straight counterparts have always taken for granted.

Even though the military says it will not tolerate anti-gay behavior, some homosexuals probably will continue to keep their sexuality private, just as many gay employees do in workplaces outside of the military. But many others will welcome the fact that they no longer have to hide their true selves or the ones they love.

In the long run, the military will be better for it. Stretched thin by two wars, it can’t afford to waste valuable human resources. Now it can focus on how to retain service members, not how to kick them out. Read more »

June
24th

A partial victory for disclosure in the R-71 case

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

One legal skirmish has yet to be fought, but Washington won the major battle over its Public Records Act on Thursday.

With a crushing 8-1 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no sweeping constitutional right to sign petitions in anonymity. The decision doesn’t force the release of the signatures that put Referendum 71 one the ballot last November – that’s the unfought skirmish – but it repudiates a claim that could have sealed all petitions on all issues, in Washington and everywhere else citizens enjoy the right to initiative and referendum.

This lawsuit was brought by opponents of last year’s “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law, who launched a petition drive to reverse the measure at the polls. They have asked the courts to prevent the Secretary of State’s Office from releasing the identities of Washingtonians who signed the petition, arguing that disclosure would put the signers at risk of harassment from gay-rights advocates.

It didn’t help that a few gay-rights advocates actually did threaten identified signers with “uncomfortable conversations,” nor that others reportedly threatened the initiative’s sponsors with physical harm.

But the stakes in the lawsuit were far bigger than R-71. It challenged the constitutionality of any disclosure on the grounds that petition signers had a First Amendment right to anonymous political expression.
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 »

April
29th

R-71 case reaches far beyond Washington’s borders

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Most people discussing the Referendum 71 lawsuit obsess over whether Washington State can or should release the identities of citizens who signed the petitions to repeal last year’s “everything but marriage” gay rights law.

But as Wednesday’s arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court made clear, the campaign to put R-71 on the ballot is only a tiny part of what’s at stake here.

The arguments pitted public disclosure opponent James Bopp Jr. against state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who was defending Washington’s Public Records Act. If Bopp ultimately prevails, the rollback of disclosure would only begin with R-71.

He and the groups he represents claim that the release of signatures is inherently a violation of the signers’ First Amendment right to anonymous political speech. So if five of the nine justices buy into the full reach of his arguments, government agencies will be constitutionally forbidden from telling the public who signed initiatives and referendums. Disclosure would be barred for any initiative or referendum, on any issue, in any state, city or other jurisdiction.

Most of the furor over this case has focused on the petitioners’ fears of personal harassment from gay-rights advocates, several of whom idiotically triggered the whole legal battle by threatening signers with “uncomfortable conversations” and the campaign sponsors with outright harm.

But McKenna, defending the Public Records Act, put his finger on the core issue: the public scrutiny necessary to ensure government integrity.
Read more »

April
26th

Open government under attack in R-71 case

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Voters long ago settled the debate over Referendum 71, the law. Now the nation’s highest court will decide Referendum 71, the test case.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of whether disclosing the names of people who signed petitions to qualify R-71 for the ballot is a violation of their political speech rights.

On one side is Washington’s Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is arguing for disclosure and for whom the case could make or break his expected bid for governor.

On the other side is a formidable foe, James Bopp Jr., an Indiana lawyer on a mission to dismantle the country’s campaign-finance laws who can spot an opportunity to further his cause half a country away.

May McKenna and Washington prevail. The case – the first time the Supreme Court has weighed a state’s public disclosure laws – is a frontal assault on open government in Washington and many other states.

Read more »