Gays, Mary K., Monorail

Picks and pans from the week's news.

Gay Marriage: Thumbs up to Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks, who upheld the rights of gays to be married in this state. Washington continues to be an innovator in marriage. One of the big appeals of Washington before statehood was the territory's liberal divorce laws. Many early pioneers ventured out on the Oregon Trail in order to legally dump the wives they left behind and take new wives out West. Many men, married and unmarried, also chose to live in sin with Indian women, called "klootchman" in Chinook jargon, which also meant "she-bear." Thus, our ancestors practiced—at least tolerated—a form of polygamy, and our state benefited from liberal divorce laws. Our marriage laws have also seemed pretty loose, at least they did until the gay marriage issue generated a vapor cloud of sanctimonious rhetoric in opposition. When I was married here in King County in the late 1970s, I remember the only thing I had to pledge to get a license was that I was neither a common drunkard nor a lunatic. I got married anyway. That provision, I understand, has since disappeared, and all evidence points to the fact that now lunatics and drunkards get married every day—if they're heterosexual. (For more, see Geov Parrish's column)

Mary K.'s Marriage: Thumbs down to those who preach against gay rights by upholding the sanctity of marriage. Please refer to this week's tabloid clippings on the planned nuptials of Mary K. Letourneau and her former sixth-grade child "lover" and father of two of her children, Vili Fualaau. According to press accounts of a recent radio interview, Fualaau announced that the couple plans a postprison, postadolescent marriage. This "sacred" union can be legally accommodated and gay marriage can't? Please.

Downtown Library: Thumbs sideways for the new Rem Koolhaas Central Library downtown. Mossback has been climbing the hill (like an old "she-bear"?) to check the place out at lunchtime. It truly is a temple, but what kind? It's not the Gothic cathedral represented by the University of Washington's classic Suzzallo Library, which has the kind of high-ceilinged, high-minded grandeur of Notre Dame. A friend of mine, Jack Shafer, the Slate press critic, toured the library this summer and declared it a "Mormon temple of books," which is hilariously close to the mark. All it needs is a statue of Moroni on top. That said, like modern-day Mormonism, the library is proving popular: According to The Seattle Times, the old library had between 1,800 and 2,000 visitors per day; the new one sees as many as 12,000. Book checkouts in August are up more than 100 percent from the previous year, and library card requests are up 500 percent. The place is bustling, not unlike summer at Mormon Square. I've never seen another library where people spend so much time looking up. It truly requires multiple explorations. One downside of the current popularity is that it's difficult to find quiet spots to sit and read where your concentration won't be interrupted by tour groups shuffling through. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows the secret readers' hideaways in the new library. One upside: librarian morale. Forget the shushing Nancy Pearl doll; I've seen librarians talking, smiling, and engaging visitors as never before. Certainly the clergy likes its new church.

Monorail Recall: Thumbs up on the state Court of Appeals ruling that said the so-called Monorail Recall initiative should be on the November ballot in Seattle. A final decision will likely be made later this week by the City Council and perhaps the state Supreme Court. The recall is a well- intended end-run that may or may not stop the People's Boondoggle. In its present form, if passed, it would deny the project use of city rights of way. That would render the Green Line project virtually unbuildable. But there are significant questions about whether a passed initiative would be legal. Nevertheless, the court felt, citizens have a right to vote first, and that's the right call. Monorail proponents are panicked by what would, in effect, be a referendum on the project, and the short time frame of a new monorail campaign. But the project still has political organization and momentum on its side. While monorail supporters condemn opponents as selfish developers like Martin Selig and NIMBYs motivated by self-interest, the same is true for the project's proponents, particularly the developers, contractors, property owners, consultants, and others who would benefit financially. Now that we know more about the actual planned Green Line, the voters should have a chance to balance vision, reality, and self-interest with a more-informed vote.

Hybrid Buses: Thumbs up on Metro's new fleet of "magic" hybrid buses (we picked them as "Best Transportation Makeover" in our recent Best of Seattle issue). Well, I've now had a chance to ride them from the burbs and back, and you don't need a monorail to get a smoother ride. The buses are supposedly much better for the environment, which is great. But the unexpected immediate benefit is their comfort. They ride lower to the ground, so they're easier to get on and off. There's less of that barf-inducing sway, which means a lot to carsick-prone people like me. The reek of diesel is much less, and they're quieter. In short, they're actually buses you want to ride. Instead of budget-busting light rail and monorail, why not more of these?

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