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Originally published Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Transcript of interviews with Gregoire, Rossi on social issues

Here is an edited transcript of interviews with Gov. Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi about various social issues. Gov. Christine Gregoire Q. What...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Here is an edited transcript of interviews with Gov. Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi about various social issues.

Gov. Christine Gregoire

Q. What are your views on abortion?

A. "I'm pro choice."

Q. Obama spoke of this recently and described abortion as a moral issue. What are your views?

A. "What I will do for myself is unlike what I will do as governor. I have not had, nor would I have, unless there were some extenuating circumstance I can't think of right now, an abortion. But I believe it's not government's role and it's no business of government to tell women what they do with regard to health-care decisions. I think it's a decision to be made by the woman in consultation with her doctor and her spouse or loved one. Her relationship with God. It's not for the state to get involved with.

Q. For many people it is a religious/moral issue. You are Catholic, how do you balance your religious beliefs versus what you just said?

A. "What I practice in my religion is not what I'm going to be as governor. My job as governor is to represent all the people of the state of Washington. I think it's very clear what Washingtonians want. I do believe and do respect that it is a decision to be made by a woman. It's not a decision to be made by government, and government should stay out of this... . As governor I think that's the exact position I should take and I'm not going to have my religion determine what I do as governor. I keep that private. My personal beliefs have to be separate and apart from what I do as governor."

Q. What are your views on stem-cell research?

A. "I support stem cell research to include embryonic. I absolutely believe we need to find the cures to these most dreaded diseases.

"Surely there's a cure to what's happening with Booth Gardner today. [Gardner, the former governor, has Parkinson's disease.] I believe we do it morally and we do it ethically but we ought to have comprehensive stem-cell research and we ought to have investment of federal dollars."

Q. What are your views on gay marriage?

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A. "I came in and we had a 29-year effort at anti-discrimination. We got that passed ... in '06. And the next year we stepped up to equality in terms of rights and benefits, with the domestic [partnership] registry.

"We've got more to do, but I firmly believe we ought to have in this state — and I believe it's the values of the people — equality on rights and benefits. Those legislators who on the floor made some very harsh comments in 2007, you didn't hear that in 2008. They went home to their constituency and I think they got a message from their constituents that it's about equality.

"So I'm going to keep fighting. But we're not done. There are more equality issues here that have to be addressed, but I'm going to keep working on it."

Q. So do you support gay couple having all the rights and responsibilities of married couples, without calling it marriage?

A. "Yes, they should have all the rights and, as you put it, responsibilities. The issue of marriage to me is a religious issue. And I don't believe the state should be engaged in telling the churches what they can and cannot do."

Q. The state could pass a law allowing gay marriage that allows churches to opt out. You don't have to order churches to marry a gay couple.

A. "To me the state of Washington did not marry me. To me, it's a sacrament. And so, as far as I'm concerned my role, my job and my passion is to ensure equal rights and equal benefits. I'll leave the issue of marriage to churches."

Q. Judges are allowed to marry people in this state. So it's not just a religious issue.

A. "But you're asking me a personal question. There are two issues here. One is the state's responsibility. To me the state's responsibility is to absolutely ensure equality. The other is a religious issue and I leave it to the churches to make that call about marriage. To me it is a sacrament. I will never suggest the state of Washington marry me. The state of Washington gave me responsibilities, it gave me rights, it gave me benefits."

Q. So for folks like Ed Murray who say we want the word "marriage", what do you say to them?

A. "What I've said is, 'Ed I'm going to do everything I can to ensure equality in the state of Washington. Work with me.' And he has. We have a great relationship."

Q. Do you think people get too hung up on the word "marriage"?

A. "I don't know. You're asking me to put myself in the shoes of somebody else."

Q. I know from talking to advocates is they want the word "marriage". So why can't they have that?

A. "I'm not going to have the church get involved and being told 'Here's what you have to do or must do.' I leave it to the religious institutions to make that call."

Q. Right now the state tells churches they cannot marry gay couples.

A. "I know there are religious institutions that do it all the time now."

Q. In Washington?

A. "Yes."

Q. But it's not recognized under state law.

A. "But I know it goes on."

Q. There could be an attempt this session to push through a bill on gay marriage. Would you oppose it?

A. "I can't answer that. I respect the institution. I will hear them out.... I want to hear the debate in the Legislature."

Q. There will be an initiative on the November ballot to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. What are your views on assisted suicide?

A. "I have looked at this from every perspective. I have concluded that for me, personally, I will vote no. But I will not get involved in any campaign at all because I talked to my dear friend Booth [Gardner, who is backing the initiative] and I understand how absolutely personal it is and I think it's a very personal decision to be decided by the voters.

"I will respect the outcome of the vote. Personally, I'm going to vote no."

Q. Some pharmacists want the right to refuse providing the emergency contraceptive Plan B. What's your position?

A. "The pharmacists and pharmacy are a critical link in women's health care. Women ought to have access to lawfully prescribed medication to include Plan B. As I advocated to the Board [of Pharmacy], if there is an individual at a store who doesn't want to fill the prescription, as long as there is someone else at the store who is willing to fill the prescription, fine.

"But I absolutely believe women ought to have access and shouldn't be told you have to go 90 miles down the road. The issue before the board isn't just Plan B. Where does it stop?

"If you can go in with a lawfully prescribed medication and I've decided I'm not going to give it to you because you're a smoker and that's why you have lung cancer and I don't agree with you, or you have AIDS and I jump to the conclusion that it has to do with your sex life and therefore I'm not going to give it to you, there's no end to this. To me this is about an oath just like I did as a lawyer in which I said I'd represent my client. I think pharmacists need to fill lawfully prescribed medication or have someone on site. They cannot shut down critical women's health care."

Q. What are your views on the death penalty?

A. "I do not support a ban on the death penalty. We need all penalty options on the table for the most heinous crimes. I do think the death penalty should be used in very few instances. One of the problems with a ban is that it applies to everyone."

Dino Rossi

Q. John McCain has said he wants the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. What's your position?

A. "I've got no control over the Supreme Court. I'm not running for the Supreme Court, nor do have an appointment there. My position all the way around — I mean, if you're going to double dip on that question I might as well answer the whole thing now — is that, and I've been very clear about this, my wife and I are both Catholic and believe every soul has a value. Every soul has a value. Which is one of the reasons I fought so hard in the budget when I wrote it in 2003 to protect the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled and people in nursing homes, is that I believe every soul does have a value.

"And, so the people of the state of Washington have voted on that issue. I'm not running on that issue. I've never run on that issue. Seven years in the state Senate. I never sponsored a bill or even an amendment on that issue. I guess if I'd wanted to, I could have. But I didn't.

"If it came before me, I'd vote my conscience, of course. If any of those issues do, I'd vote my conscience. The reality here is that it's nothing that I'm running on, or ever have, or am running on in this race.

"But I've been very clear where I am in terms of every soul having a value."

Q. I understand that, but it's not that abstract of a question given that McCain says he supports overturning Roe v. Wade. As you pointed out, he is likely to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. If that happened and they overturn Roe v. Wade, it wouldn't surprise me if a member of your party in the Legislature introduced legislation. So it could very well be something you'd get caught up in.

A. "That's about eight different steps that would take a very long time. We don't have a majority in the Washington state Senate. We're not even close to it. Or in the House. You think [House Speaker] Frank Chopp or [Senate Majority Leader] Lisa Brown are going to send it to me?"

Q. But let's say Democrats are still in control, but members of your party in the Senate or the House introduced legislation to ban abortion. Would you completely stay out of it? Or would you get involved in that?

A. "I'm not going to push any legislation on those issues. I'm not going to sponsor legislation or push legislation on those issues.

"Some people have told me that you ought to change your position on life, that you'd be a shoo-in for governor. I said you know, no matter which side of the issue you're on, you have to make a decision about where you are with this and go with it.

"Some people think I'm making an error with my position with life. If I'm going to make an error, I'm always going to err on the side of life. What's the worse case scenario, someone is alive?

"So when it comes to those issues I will always err on the side of life. Now, the people in our state also have the ability of referendum and initiative. People in this state have voted on more than one occasion on those issues. It's pretty clear where most people stand on that issue."

Q. Granted it's hypothetical, but I assume you hope that in a couple of years that Republicans will control one or more of the Houses. So if a bill landed on your desk, what you're saying is you'd vote your conscience, which means ...

A. "Yes. And even if something like that were to randomly in the future happen, the people still have the power of referendum if they disagreed with my position on life."

Q. Do you support exceptions in the case of rape, incest or to protect the life of he mother?

A. "I have, yes."

Q. If there is a push for gay marriage this coming session, what would you do? Would you actively oppose such an effort?

A. "I have not been supportive of that issue. I'm not running on that issue either."

Q. Yes, but it is a bill that could land on your desk.

A. "I won't support it. I've been very clear. I believe the traditional view of marriage is between one man and one woman.

Q. So would you veto a bill if it passed?

A. "Yes. They can go to the people if they like and convince the people it's a good idea."

Q. What about extending the rights of gay couples?

A. "To what?"

Q. In the past they've advocated having the equivalent of marriage.

A. "I think that's already happened. So what else there?"

Q. It's my understanding that there's quite a list, but I can't name them for you.

A. "Well, I can't name them for you either, so I'm not going to tell you what I'll veto or what I'll not veto."

Q. OK, but just on premise of it would you oppose extending rights for gay couples?

A. "Clearly we are a compassionate state. The bottom line here is people should be able to care for their loved ones. And that is something I was consistent about saying. But when it comes to the tradition of marriage, I believe that's reserved for one man and one woman.

"I don't think my opponent has answered that question."

Q. What if a ballot measure comes about for gay marriage and is approved, would you live with that?

A. "Yeah. If passed by the people there isn't a lot I could do about that. Any changes would have to be passed by a legislative body before it would come to me.

"It's nothing I'm spending a lot of time on. It's one of those things where my focus is going to be balancing the budget and expanding some of the roads and the rest."

Q. But you know, having served in the Legislature, that these things have a tendency to pop up.

A. "Every once in awhile they pop up and they usually go nowhere.

"I don't know what else is left besides marriage."

Q. I know there are folks who would like to turn the clock back in terms of what's been passed in the past couple of sessions. If there were an effort to eliminate some of the new rights that have been extended to gay couples and that bill hit your desk, what would you do?

A. "That depends on what it is. I'd have to look at it and see if it's reasonable and rational. If it's in the bounds of caring and comforting a loved one, then I think it's fine.

"I think a red flag — it looked like there was the ability for someone to gain control of someone's assets without a will. That would concern me. It seems like a trial lawyer's dream. By me claiming we had a relationship, you pass away and I can come in and say you promised me and you promised me that. I think that's a problem."

Q. The idea, I believe, is that if there's a traditionally married couple and the husband dies without a will, the wife gets the assets. They're applying the same logic to gay couples.

A. "Well, that's why you have wills. That's a problem. That's a huge problem. That's a problem legally, with the transfer of assets."

Q. But things like hospital visits?

A. "That's care and comfort of a loved one."

Q. What are your views on embryonic stem-cell research?

A. "Adult stem-cell research is where all the advances have come from. There have been zero advance from embryonic. It's too volatile. There haven't been any medicines that have come from that, which is why most of the research is coming from adults. I have been a supporter of stem-cell research since most of it is adult.

"She's [Gregoire's] being allowed to blur the line between embryonic and adult-stem cells. I've been supportive of adult stem-cell research but not embryonic. There is a distinction between the two because one has promise and one doesn't."

Q. There will be an initiative on the November ballot to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. What are your views on assisted suicide?

A. "I'm not supportive. Every soul has a value, no matter how convenient or inconvenient it is for other people. My mom had cancer. She had breast cancer. It came back, it was over 20 years ago. It came back when we thought she was clear of the breast cancer. When it came back, it was up and down her spine and about five points in her skull. And she started having chemotherapy. She couldn't keep anything down. I'd leave from work and come to lunch and try to get her to eat something. She couldn't keep anything down.

"If this [assisted suicide] was available, I think she would have opted to have a doctor help take her life. I mean it was that bad ...

"Well, my sister-in-law is a nurse. She came over from Spokane and saw what kind of medications my mom was getting and consulted with a doctor and found she was getting too much and not all of the right types.

"We ended up changing the medication. My mom started having more of a will to eat and keep food down and started gaining weight again. She lived a couple more years and ended up seeing our first child be born. If she'd had that [assisted suicide] option, that never would have happened.

"So like I said I will always err on the side of life, and what's the worst case scenario? Someone is alive.

"So it's a personal issue for me."

Q. What are your views on the death penalty?

A. "I'm not a fan of the death penalty. I think it's maybe reserved for the Ted Bundys of the world. Getting back to every life has a value. Granted with some, maybe it's harder to find that value in a Ted Bundy. It's one where I used to be more pro death penalty probably 20 years ago.

"Really I think it needs to be reserved for the most vicious of the vicious. Balancing budgets and building streets — that's easy. This would have to be the hardest thing I'd have to do as governor."

Q. Some pharmacists want the right to refuse providing the emergency contraceptive Plan B. What's your position?

A. "I agreed with the judge. The governor was pretty heavy-handed. I don't agree that she [Gregoire] should be telling the pharmacists they have to carry this product.

"There was always a conscience clause in everything we did in Olympia. Catholic hospitals didn't have to perform abortions. What she's done is remove that. That's her whole goal is to remove that. There was never an issue of people not having access. It was a political issue.

"I don't think we ought to be forcing Safeway to carry my favorite brand of sport drink either. If all their customers want it and they don't do it then they'll go out of business."

Andrew Garber: agarber@seattletimes.com or 360-236-8268.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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