Entries in Washington State (13)


Washington State, Following Same-Sex Marriage Vote, Uses Gender-Neutral Terms

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Washington State’s Department of Health sought public feedback at a Nov. 28 hearing to decide on gender-neutral wording in marriage and divorce certificates. It was an inevitable consequence of the newly-passed Referendum 74, allowing same-sex marriage in the state.

“The forms should acknowledge the realities of gender and that it is fluid. It should respect the diversity of all families,” Equal Rights Washington spokesperson Joshua Friedes told ABC News.

For many lawmakers in Washington, gender-neutral terminology extended beyond same-sex marriage.

“Our fight for marriage equality is in part a fight for gender equality, not just for the gay and lesbian community. It is a fight for equality of sexes and the idea that marriage does not in itself mean that women are subjugated to men,” House Representative Jamie Pedersen told ABC News.

Referendum 74 appeared on the ballot in the Nov. 6 general election. It will take effect on Dec. 6.

“People can obtain a marriage license on Dec. 6 and the license will take three days to take effect. We are working on updating the terminology by Dec. 6,” Washington State Department of Health Communications Director Tim Church told ABC News. He said that gender-specific terms like bride, groom, husband, and wife, would be replaced with “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.”

Washington United for Marriage campaign manager Zach Silk said, “This [R-74] is a clear win … This is [a] historic day for Washington, [a] historic day for our country and, most of all, for families across the state who have dreamed of this day and the wedding celebrations to come.”

Rep. Pedersen has worked seventeen years on equal marriage. “I am ecstatic!” said Pedersen. “My long-time partner and I have four children and we plan to get married on our anniversary.”

“We need to continue working on issues of parenthood -- for example, the criminal prohibitions for paying surrogate mothers. A lot of couples go to other states like Oregon to have a surrogate mother. Also, our birth certificate statute hasn’t caught up yet and we need to work on that, but there are a lot of signs that the world is moving forward at a faster pace toward equality,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What Happens If Washington State Legalizes Pot?

Hemera/Thinkstock(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Washington state probably won't influence the 2012 presidential race, but voters there could still leave the next president in a haze.

On Tuesday, Washington may very well become the first state to legalize the possession, cultivation and commercial sale of marijuana, both Republicans and Democrats say -- bringing the state into apparent conflict with federal law if voters approve Initiative 502, which would allow residents over 21 to buy pot from stores licensed and regulated by the state liquor board.

If I-502 passes, it remains unclear how the president, whoever he is, will respond.

The White House declined to comment to ABC News when asked whether President Obama would seek to overturn I-502, should it pass and should he remain in office. So did Obama's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Neither Obama's nor Romney's presidential campaign responded to multiple emails seeking comment over the weekend.

"We are not going to speculate on the outcome of the various ballot initiatives in each of the states," Department of Justice spokeswoman Allison Price wrote in an email.

Representatives of both political parties in Washington told ABC News that prospects for I-502 look good.

"I have no doubt it's gonna pass," Washington Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur told ABC News. The state GOP did not take a position on the measure, and no one raised it in an endorsement meeting, Wilbur said. "As liberal as the state is ... I wouldn't be surprised to see it at 55/45," Wilbur said, referring to percentages of the vote for and against.

"It's really hard to know what's going to happen," Washington Democratic Party spokesman Benton Strong said. "I think most of the polls look positive for it."

Their favorable handicapping is informed partly by automated polls, considered unreliable by ABC News, that predict the measure will pass by a comfortable margin. Major pollsters have not surveyed in Washington in 2012, focusing instead on competitive presidential-battleground states.

Washington's Republican and Democratic candidates for attorney general have pledged to defend it in federal court if it passes and is challenged, although both oppose the measure. Both men think a federal challenge is likely.

"If it does pass, and it looks like it may pass in this state, we will be exactly contrary to federal criminal law," said Reagan Dunn, the Republican candidate, at their September debate. Dunn was referring to the Controlled Substances Act, enacted under President Nixon in 1970. "Depending on who is the U.S. attorney, depending on who is the attorney general of the United States, we are very likely as a state to be sued and challenged in federal court on this issue." Dunn then touted his experience trying cases in federal court.

"If the voters approve the initiative, obviously my job is to defend that state law," said Bob Ferguson, the Democratic candidate. "It won't be easy. Anyone who says it will be easy is kidding themselves."

If I-502 passes, possession will become legal 30 days after Election Day, but regulated commercial sale would not begin until Dec. 6, 2013, after a year-long rule-making process granted to the state's health department. During that time, supporters hope to negotiate with the federal government and avoid a challenge.

Medical marijuana doesn't offer a clear picture of how the federal government would respond to I-502 passing, either. A total of 17 states, including Washington, plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and the Obama administration's approach to those state laws has drawn criticism from marijuana advocates. A 2009 Justice Department memo urged U.S. attorneys to avoid prosecuting medical-marijuana patients who follow state law; a later memo advocated prosecution of medical pot shops.

Regardless of whether Washington's initiative passes, marijuana legalizers have said they will continue to push state initiatives. After major state/federal issues have arisen in court over Arizona's immigration law and funding provisions in Obama's health-reform law, advocates are pushing marijuana to become the next major states' rights legal conflict.

"Only through a process of states challenging federal marijuana policy and demanding that they be allowed to regulate marijuana in a way that's socially responsible for local communities are we also going to see a change in federal policy," Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann told ABC News.

Since the candidates won't say how they'd handle such a scenario, Washington, Oregon and Colorado -- where similar initatives will also appear on the ballot Tuesday -- will have to wait and see if the issue is forced.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Accused of Trying to Saw Off Sleeping Husband's Head

ABC News(EVERETT, Wash.) -- A Washington state woman accused of trying to saw off her sleeping husband's head is on trial this week on charges of attempted murder.

Renee Bishop-McKean was arrested in Everett, Wash., in October after her husband, Brett Bishop, awoke in the middle of the night to find her standing over him with a handheld electric sabre saw, according to court documents.

Brett Bishop went to sleep first that night, but awoke to the sound of an electric saw revving above him.

"Renee came at me in the kitchen with the Sawzall [saw] raised up, we had a struggle over it. She kept pulling the trigger to make it run, so I reached out and pulled the battery out of it," he said in court, according to ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV.

After the struggle, Bishop-McKean allegedly hit him with a mallet and a hatchet. He was later treated at a hospital for cuts and scrapes, including stitches.

The prosecution said Bishop-McKean, 44, plotted the attack for weeks, buying plastic sheets, bleach and garbage bags to clean up the scene, according to KOMO.

She is charged with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree domestic violence assault in connection with the attack. The trial is expected to wrap up Thursday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Voter Registration? There’s an App for That

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Candidates are already using social media to get out the vote. Now some are asking, “Why not use social media to register to vote?”

As early as next week, Washington state residents will be able to do just that via Facebook.

The application, which was developed through a partnership among the state government, Facebook and Microsoft Corp., is the next step in digitizing voter registration in Washington. Along with 12 other states, Washington allows voters to register online. Washington is the first state to allow voter registration through social media.

The project originated out of conversations with Rock the Vote, an organization that works to register young adults to vote and engage them in the political process, according to Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections in Washington.

Rock the Vote wanted to transfer responsibility for registering Washington state voters to the state itself and, in deciding how to do so, the state department of elections focused on attracting new voters via the Internet.

“We had online registration in Washington for four years, we were the second state to offer it starting in 2008, and we definitely want to grow and expand the use of online registrations because online registrations are more efficient to process,” Hamlin said. “And, frankly, people expect to be able to do things online.”

Microsoft, which has a long working relationship with Washington’s state government, developed the app at no cost. Hamlin said Facebook is a partner in the project “in the sense that they are very interested in doing this.”

While the Facebook app does require users to allow the application to access their personal information, such as their name and birth date, this is information already saved to users’ Facebook profiles. Hamlin emphasized that other identifying information, such as the driver’s license or state ID card number that voters will still need to provide in order to register, will not be stored within Facebook’s databases.

Hamlin said that while the app is displayed within a Facebook skin, voters registering through the application are using a system within Washington state’s voter registration website. Users also must verify their residency in Washington State, which is automatically verified by the state’s records, and give the government permission to use the signature it has on file to complete the form. Both of these processes are handled solely by the state’s secure website. “Facebook is not capturing this information,” Hamlin said.

The state hopes that the application will encourage a wide range of new voters to register, as well as draw attention to its My Vote tool, a personalized resource available to every registered voter in the state of Washington. The site allows voters to update their address, view candidate statements and review which elections they have voted in, among other things.

Hamlin said that while the app was not developed to target any specific group of potential voters, “the younger demographic is a smaller proportion of our registered demographic, so that maybe is a way to grow registration in that demographic.”

“We’re really excited,” Hamlin said. “We do really think that this is going to increase the number of people that are registered to vote and also spread awareness of the availability of our My Vote tool.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


School Sunscreen Ban Angers Parent

School Sunscreen Ban Angers Parent(TACOMA, Wash.) -- It was scorching pain that could have been avoided.

Violet and Zoe Michener came home from field day so burned that their mother rushed them to the hospital.

The sisters aren't just fair-skinned. Zoe has a form of albinism that makes her particularly sun-sensitive.

"Yeah, I was crying about my sunburn," Zoe said.

Mother Jesse Michener of Tacoma, Wash. said she regrets not putting sunscreen on them that morning since it was raining.

Even so, doctors recommend re-applying every 2 to 3 hours when outside, but that's against their school rules.

"They couldn't even reapply sunscreen without a doctor's note. They couldn't carry that in their backbacks," said Jesse Michener.

The school district said it has to ban sunscreen because it's state law.

"Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause allergic reaction in children, you have to really monitor that," said Dan Voelpel, Tacoma School District Spokesman.

Sunscreens are regulated by the FDA as an over the counter drug.

Many American schools don't allow them without a doctor's note.

In fact, California's the only state to allow sunscreen in school without one.

With millions of kids gearing up for summer camps and daycare where they'll be exposed to midday sun, the situation has doctors worried.

"Having a sunburn in childhood dramatically increases your risk of skin cancer later in life," said dermatologist Doris Day.

Day believes even though suncreen allergies are very rare, they don't justify a ban.

"I can't see any justification for any school to tell a child that they are not allowed to apply sunscreen," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Washington Same-Sex Marriage Law to Go Up for a Vote in November

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Last February, Washington became the seventh state in the nation to permit gay and lesbian weddings after Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the measure into law.

At the time, Gregoire declared it was "a day that historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights."

However, same-sex marriages in Washington State have been cast into doubt after opponents managed to accrue 240,000 signatures to put the matter up for a vote in November.

Those opposed to homosexual unions had a deadline of June 6 to come up with the required 120,000 signatures, which they more than doubled.  Had they failed to produce enough signatures, gay and lesbians would have been allowed to get married starting Wednesday.

Washington, which passed a Defense of Marriage Act in 1998, has been more open toward gay rights since then, instituting a Domestic Partnership law five years ago.  Polls have also shown that a majority of residents would not vote to overturn a same-sex marriage law passed by the Legislature.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.  Like Washington State, Maryland is also poised to have a public vote this fall after the Legislature passed a law this year supporting same-sex marriage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Girl Said Bloody Syringe Pricked Her in Hotel Bed

Image Credit: KOMO News(LONDON) -- The Washington state hotel where a girl said she was poked in bed by a bloody syringe said it is conducting an internal investigation before deciding whether to waive the room fees for the girl’s family.

Emily Smith, 9, was pricked in her heel Friday as she climbed into the top bunk at the GuestHouse Inn and Suites in Aberdeen, her mother, Angie Smith, said.

“There were syringes, plastic bag, bloody bandage all underneath the mattress cover. We were really shocked and freaking out,” Smith told ABC News’ Seattle affiliate.

Hotel manager Angel Housden said the family was angry that their room charges had not been waived when they checked out Sunday. She said she does not have the authority to comp room charges and instead passed the information along to the owner, who she said is conducting an internal investigation to determine how the items ended up in the room.

“We not only clean our rooms daily but we also have a head housekeeper who goes in after and checks the work,” Housden told ABC News. “I don’t see how it could have been missed.”

Housden was not on duty at the time of the incident, but said the front desk staff notified her as soon as Smith reported it.

“The guest did not want an ambulance or police there, but I personally called the police and had them arrive [at the hotel] with me,” she said.

The Smith family declined Housden’s offer to move them to a new room and instead just allowed her to change their bedding, she said.

Emily, who was in town for a softball tournament, will have to undergo a year of blood tests before doctors will be able to determine whether she is free of HIV, Hepatitis B or C, her mother said.

Housden said she does not know the status of the owner’s internal investigation.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Suspect in Ex-Girlfriend's Death Arrested in Oklahoma City

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- A 19-year-old man suspected in the murder of his 17-year-old girlfriend in Washington State has been arrested in Oklahoma City, according to authorities.

Jarod Lane was picked up by Oklahoma City troopers on Monday after witnesses reported seeing a man along a highway, according to ABC News station KOCO.

Lane didn't put up a fight when they captured him, and according to officers at the scene he admitted that he was wanted in connection with a homicide case in Washington, police told KOCO.

Lane was wanted after his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Scholl, was found dead on May 25 inside a burning home in Renton, Wash.

Renton Police Deputy Chief Erik Wallgren said firefighters arrived to find a couch on the second floor burning and the girl on the floor, unconscious.  Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.  No one else was present inside the house.

Injuries were found on Scholl's body, and investigators ruled her death a homicide, Renton Police spokesman Terri Vickers told KOCO.

Lane is being held at the Oklahoma County Jail until he is extradited to Washington.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Washington State Wildfire Now '30 Percent Contained'

File photo. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(GOLDENDALE, Wash.) -- Firefighters in Washington state are continuing to make progress against a wildfire that has scorched about 5,400 acres since it began last week, threatening hundreds of homes along the way.

"That fire is about 30 percent contained at this time," Debbie Robinson with the State Department of Natural Resources said.

As a result, some evacuees have been given the green light to head back home.

"Some residents have been allowed to return back home at this time, as long as they are not in the main area of the fire where it actually took off," Robinson said.

However, she warns residents to be careful "so we don't get any more starts," since "our resources are pretty thin."

The blaze, which began last Wednesday, is burning just north of Goldendale.  Although progress has been made, Robinson says there's no way to know when the fire will be completely under control.

"It's very difficult to say because we are still continuing to experience extremely hot and dry conditions," she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Family Cheats Death after Avalanche Crushes Their Vehicle in Wash. State

The Parker Family(SEATTLE) -- A Washington State family's spring break road trip turned into a nightmare encounter with an avalanche on Wednesday.

As Randall Kent Parker, his wife Roxanne and their two young daughters were driving down Interstate 90 near Seattle, a wall of snow and ice slammed into their SUV with such force that it crushed their vehicle and nearly pushed them off the edge of the road.

The Parkers, who live in Pasco, Wash., said it felt as if dynamite had exploded inside their car. Amazingly, all survived with just minor injuries and today they say they're lucky to be alive.

"We were just a couple hours from home, driving over the mountains. The next thing I know, our world had changed forever," said Kent, who was behind the wheel.

The vehicle was surrounded by three to four feet of heavy snow and ice, pushing the car sideways and through a concrete retaining wall.

The impact shattered the windshield, crumpled the roof and caused the air bags to deploy. So much snow entered the vehicle that it filled the car's seats and pushed snow and glass into the riders' mouths.

"I heard my wife. It wasn't a scream, but it was just a yell as everything caved in," Kent Parker said.

The couple's two young daughters, ages three and seven, were sitting in the backseat when the avalanche struck. The children were buried by the snow, and their father rushed to dig them out. Miraculously, both were unharmed.

While the accident happened on a remote mountain road, it didn't take long for help to arrive. The Washington State Patrol was on the scene within minutes, rescuing Roxanne who was bleeding in the front seat. She is now recovering at home; incredibly, she only had minor injuries, including a sore chest.

Copyright 2011 ABC News radio 

ABC News Radio