Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01) announced his candidacy for governor of the state of Washington in Seattle on Monday, and your erstwhile reporter was present.
The candidacy was announced with a speech that focused on "process improvements" and the invocation of new technology jobs as an economic engine for job growth (and, in fact, the event took place at the headquarters of a company that has developed seed-derived biofuels that have been used to power military and commercial aircraft).
But that's not the part that's going to be the most interesting for the civil rights-supportive reader.
The most interesting part is that Inslee was quick to offer his support for full marriage equality in the state of Washington, should he find himself elected.
A Historical Review
The congressman has compiled a mixed record on issues that matter to the LBGT community during his time in Congress, and most of it can be considered supportive. He did vote to pass the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) repeal, and he co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, which made it out of the House Oversight and Government Committee, only to die in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would have provided same-sex partners access to the spousal benefits of their federal employee family members.
An additional bill, HR 1024, would have given same-sex couples an expectation of equal treatment during immigration proceedings; this was also cosponsored by Inslee,but it also died in committee.
However, when it came time in 2009 to try to repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, the House got a bill together (HR 3567) that Inslee was not willing to cosponsor; it died, again, in House Judiciary.
Now here's where I get a bit suspicious: A similar bill was introduced in the 112th Congress, on March 16, 2011, and of the 115 co-sponsors, virtually all signed on or before April 6th. There are five who signed on later, including Congressman Inslee, who was one of two co-sponsors who all signed up on June 15th, which was just 12 days before his announcement.
I walked into the after-announcement "press availability" just in time to record this exchange:
REPORTER: Congressman, would you address two social issues that are in the headlines these days. One - where do you stand on gay marriage; two - where do you stand on the legalization of marijuana?
INSLEE: Thanks for your easy question, sir, uh. Um, so I believe in marriage equality, and the reason I believe in that is that uh, I've been married for 38 years, and I fundamentally believe that no government, and no politician should deny any of my fellow Washingtonians the right to have what I have, which is a stable, committed, you know, meaningful relationship. So I'm gonna support, uh, the legalization of that equality in the state of Washington. And when we do that, we will do it to make sure in a way that no religious organization doesn't have the right to have their own definition for their own purposes, under their belief of spirituality. This is a situation where we can have both equality, which is a quintessential Washington value. And I said I love the state, one of the reasons I love the state of Washington is we have been leaders in equality in so many different ways; this is another place where I think Washington should lead.
Uh, marijuana, there are two things I know we should do for sure. Number one, we have got to get the intention of the voters of the State of Washington to be honored, which does allow the use of medical marijuana in the State of Washington. And right now, that intent of the voters is being frustrated by the federal government, which is threatening the federal - uh, state government any time you try to enforce the will of the people. So we need some changes to, frankly, get the federal government off our backs when it comes to the ability of Washingtonians to have access to medical marijuana.
Second, I believe that we should stop wasting so much of our resources in our criminal justice system associated with marijuana, particularly personal use of marijuana. This is something that really does not bring value or reduce significant levels of crime, and we need to reprioritize our law enforcement away from chasing folks who are involved in marijuana. We've got enough problems in our criminal justice system, I'm aware of that - I guess in part because my daughter-in-law is a forensic scientist at the crime lab, I've got a sense of the challenges. Law enforcement's strapped; they've got a lot of problems to deal with.
As far as total decriminalization, I'm not there yet at this moment. I'm a parent, I'm just not comfortable right now, uh, and that's my position.
OK, so that's a pretty interesting story, and we could leave it right there - but there is one extra bonus to the thing that is so good, so deeply ironic that you may remember the ending of this story long after you forget the lead.
I got a parking ticket attending the event, issued by a Parking Enforcement Officer with an amazingly appropriate name, and that ticket was issued to me for a violation that occurred one block over from Harrison Street in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. That means I showed up to watch the leading Democratic contender for Governor in 2012 announce his candidacy, and when it was all over, Officer J. Hell had issued me a ticket on Republican Street.
And all of that proves the truth of what I'm always saying:
Some days you don't even have to write jokes. You just have to harvest 'em.