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.
Portland-based poet, activist and newspaper columnist S. Renee Mitchell has been selected to receive the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism. Mitchell, named as one of "21 Leaders for the 21st Century," will receive the award during a gala ceremony in New York City on May 16. Past winners include actress/activist Jane Fonda; Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize; Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi of Iran, the first woman to hold a ministerial cabinet post in the United Arab Emirates; and Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, co-founder of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. The international award is offered by Women's eNews, a New York-based global online magazine. It selected the 21 award winners from hundreds of nominations of passionate trailblazers — all over the world — who "stand out for their extraordinary visions and commitment to working on behalf of women." "In a year where many believe there has been a profound scarcity of leadership, it is thrilling to once again find so many women and men who are dedicated to expanding values that cherish the lives of women," Women's eNews Editor-in-Chief Rita Henley Jensen said on the magazine's Web site.