What the Frack?!

Marriage equality, a social backlash, a sporty lawsuit, gas and justice gets a new leader.

Rick Eichstaedt - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Rick Eichstaedt

25 Votes

Just 25 votes were needed to pass the legalization of gay marriage in the Washington Senate last week. The vote was largely bipartisan. Republicans Steve Litzow, Cheryl Pflug, Joe Fain and Andy Hill supported it. Democrats Jim Hargrove, Paull Shin and Tim Sheldon opposed it.

“Same-Sex Marriage would be the final chapter in our equality efforts,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, wrote in January.

An attempted amendment by Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, to automatically submit the legislation for voter approval was rejected. The amendment was co-sponsored by Spokane-area Republican Sens. Michael Baumgartner and Mike Padden.

“I think Washington state has a long history of dealing with the social-issue votes directly by the voters,” Baumgartner says.

Hatfield ultimately voted for the marriage proposal anyway — Baumgartner and Padden didn’t. The House, which planned to take up the issue this week, has more than enough support to approve it.

Baumgartner says he won’t be a part of any referendum process. “This isn’t an issue that I thought a lot about when I decided to run for the Legislature,” Baumgartner says.

In California, meanwhile, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Proposition 8 — a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to between a man and a woman — was a violation of the U.S. Constitution. (Daniel Walters)

Never Mind

Last Tuesday, breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure cut its funding to reproductive-health services provider Planned Parenthood. By the following Friday — after an outcry on social media and several high-profile denouncements from the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called the decision a step backwards for women's rights — it had reversed its decision.

The intervening four days also saw angry posts blanket the Facebook page of the Eastern Washington affiliate of the Komen organization, according to local Race for the Cure chair Shae Fasbender.

“It seemed like the community was pleased with that reversal,” Fasbender says “But it’s still probably a little bit of a disappointment in the way it was handled by Komen national.”

The Eastern Washington affiliate is one of 19* affiliates in the country to give money to Planned Parenthood, Fasbender says. She estimates that, of the $2 million raised since their inception in 2002, they’ve given about $80,000 to Planned Parenthood.

The fallout continued this week when Komen’s senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, resigned.

“The decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization,” Handel, who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for Georgia’s governorship, wrote in her resignation letter. (Chris Stein)

Pain Relief

Lawyers in Des Moines, Iowa, filed a class-action lawsuit this week alleging that Spokane Valley-based Brett Brothers Sports International, Inc., has made false claims about the pain-relieving powers of its Ionic necklaces line.

The claims that the colorful, magnetic necklaces could relieve neck, shoulder and back pain — especially for athletes — ran on the company’s website from 2008 to 2010 and continue to appear on packaging and on suppliers’ websites, according to the suit.

The company produces baseball bats and other sporting goods. George Brett was a Hall of Fame baseball player who played for the Kansas City Royals from 1973 to 1993. His brother, Bobby Brett, owns the Spokane Chiefs hockey team and the Spokane Indians baseball team.

A call seeking comment was not immediately returned. (Joel Smith)

Idaho’s Gasland

This weekend, several Moscow-area conservation groups are holding a number of events to discuss “fracking,” a controversial technique used in natural gas drilling. The technique, which uses many chemicals known to be harmful to human health, is still largely unregulated and beginning to be used in Idaho.

At 5 pm, Saturday, the documentary Gasland will be shown, followed by a 6:30 pm presentation by University of Idaho assistant professor and hydrogeologist Jerry Fairly. The event takes place at Moscow’s Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, at 420 E. Second St. Later, a public forum and discussion will be held.

Speakers include southern Idaho fracking activists Amanda Buchanan and Liz Amason; Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund organizer Kai Huschke; and Republican Idaho state Rep. Tom Trail. This event begins at 8 pm in the multipurpose room of the Hamilton Indoor Recreation Center at 1724 E. F St. in Moscow.

The Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club are co-sponsoring the events, which are free of charge and open to the public. (Nicholas Deshais)


A well-known environmental lawyer who has long thrown his cards in with Spokane’s activist community doubled down this week.

Rick Eichstaedt became executive director at the Center for Justice, the epicenter for progressive politics in the Inland Northwest.

“I’ve been at the Center for seven years,” Eichstaedt, 39, says. “I’ve seen a litany of changes. I’ve seen the difference the Center makes in this community.”

Eichstaedt has been a key member in the center’s Riverkeeper program, which is part of an international alliance dedicated to protecting the world’s waterways. He founded the Spokane chapter under the aegis of the Center for Justice. And when his friend and colleague Michael Chappell, 44, unexpectedly died last year, Eichstaedt helped lead Gonzaga’s Environmental Law Clinic, which Chappell ran. The law clinic has historically worked closely with the Riverkeeper.

Jim Sheehan, who founded the Center more than a decade ago, has been acting as executive director since civil rights attorney Breean Beggs stepped down from the position in 2010.

Part of Eichstaedt’s charge will be navigating the way forward with the Center, he says.

“The Center for Justice board has been thinking about how we stay sustainable and present in the community,” he says. “It’s tough times for nonprofits.”

Eichstaedt’s duties will include everything from “fundraising to management to doing other things that executive directors do.”

But he’ll also stick with the activism, he says, not only continuing to champion the Center’s environmental priorities but “[pounding] the pavement for police accountability.” (Nicholas Deshais)

* An earlier version of this brief misstated the number of Komen affiliates who give to Planned Parenthood.

American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through May 23
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