OLYMPIA—Washington's former Senate Republican leader on Monday said he will reverse himself and vote for a gay civil rights bill, all but assuring its passage this year after two decades of debate and narrow defeats.Sen. Bill Finkbeiner's decision last year to stick with his Republican colleagues led to its one-vote defeat in the Senate last year after it sailed through the House.The measure would add "sexual orientation" to a state law that already bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance based on race, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status and other factors."I've had a number of conversations over the past year that have led me to more fully understand the level of discrimination against gays and lesbians, and I now find it is both appropriate and necessary for the state to make it clear that this is not acceptable," Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, said in a written statement obtained by The Associated Press before it was widely released.
Multnomah County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey, center, talks with Sauvie Island resident Jerry Parson, left, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sauvie Island Bridge on Wednesday. The new bridge will replace the cracked original structure, which was built in 1950.