Moeller bill would legalize gay marriage

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, state Rep. Jim Moeller is introducing legislation in the House today that would give same-sex couples in Washington the right to marry.

Moeller, D-Vancouver, and state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, took advantage of the holiday dedicated to celebrating love to call for full marriage equality. Murray introduced a companion bill in the Senate Monday. Moeller and Murray are among a small group of openly gay members of the Legislature.

“Over the past several years, the Legislature and the public together have been steadily building a bridge to equality for gay and lesbian families,” Moeller said in a statement. He noted the passage of civil rights legislation in 2006 that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing and financial transactions. Over the next three years, the Legislature passed a series of bills securing broad rights for same-sex couples, culminating in a law that established state-recognized domestic partners. In 2009, voters upheld the domestic partnership law, rejecting a referendum that sought to overturn it.

“Gay and lesbian families in Washington now enjoy the same state spousal rights that their married straight friends enjoy — except for the name ‘marriage,’” Murray said.

Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act prohibits same-sex marriage. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the state statute in a legal challenge a few years ago.

Ban plastic bags in Washington?

Two Senate Democrats, Sen. Adam Kline of Seattle and Sen. Maralyn Chase of Shoreline, on Friday introduced Senate Bill 5780, that would ban retailers from providing plastic bags to consumers.

Under the legislation, operators of retail stores would be prohibited from providing carryout bags to consumers for free or for charge unless those bags were made of compostable plastic or recyclable paper or were reusable carryout bags.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry front group, called the bill “misguided.”

“If passed, the ban would likely drive Washington consumers to purchase cheap, fabric-like reusable bags that can contain excessive levels of lead and breed bacteria,” the center said in a press release.

The organization, which according to the Washington Post is funded by a coalition of restaurant and food companies, cited its own study in which it claims that many reusable bags contain lead in amounts greater than 100 parts per million, the standard limit for heavy metals in packaging.

The center describes itself as “dedicated to protecting consumer choices and promoting common sense” and defending “the right of adults and parents to choose how they live their lives, what they eat and drink, how they manage their finances, and how they enjoy themselves.”

The Oregon Legislature is considering legislation that would ban the use of plastic carryout bags in retail stores and charge 5 cents for paper bags. That legislation is supported by the Northwest Grocery Association.