Local news

In brief: Same-sex marriage gets House panel OK

OLYMPIA – By a single vote, a House panel passed a proposal to allow same-sex marriage after rejecting a Spokane Valley legislator’s efforts to change it.

Republican Rep. Matt Shea argued that all business owners with a religious objection to same-sex marriage need absolute protection from any civil suit for refusing to participate. That’s in keeping with the state constitution’s guarantee of “absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment,” he said.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said such concerns were raised years ago when the state first began considering legal protections for sexual orientation and didn’t materialize: “We don’t have any evidence of any abuse.”

Shea also proposed changing the bill to require that all couples getting married be residents of the state for at least six months to prevent “people abusing our marriage laws.”

The committee also rejected that amendment and another to place the law on the November ballot, then passed the bill on a 7-6 party-line vote.

Jim Camden

Council endorses marijuana resolution

The Spokane City Council unanimously agreed Monday that marijuana should be able to be possessed legally by people who have a legitimate medical need for the drug.

The council approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing a letter that Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee sent to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in November requesting that marijuana be reclassified from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug.

Schedule 1 drugs, such as heroin, are illegal under any circumstances. Schedule 2 drugs can be legal with a prescription.

Last year, dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries shut down in Spokane after the federal authorities warned that they were violating federal law.

“We have a lot of citizens who are caught in the legal limbo by this situation,” said Councilman Jon Snyder, who sponsored the resolution. “The reclassification to Schedule 2 would simply allow medical uses of marijuana to be acknowledged and put the drug in a situation where it could be regulated and researched and used in a way that is more along the desires of the citizens of Washington state.”

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