This week a dedicated group of Oregonians began the official process of undoing a great injustice. In 2004, during the great wave of anti-equality measures across the nation, Oregon voters passed Measure 36, a constitutional amendment denying LGBT couples marriage equality. Although the margin was smaller than in most states, it was a decisive and depressing result.
Oregon United For Marriage (OU4M) is a new group allied with Basic Rights Oregon. Their goal is to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot to overturn the constitutional amendment and create true equality. The initial petition required 1,000 signatures; OU4M gathered over twice that many, including signatories like Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Gov. Barbara Roberts. They must now obtain approximately 100,000 signatures to get the measure certified for the ballot.
Oregon was one of the first states to issue same-sex marriage licences. In early 2004, Multnomah and Benton counties decided that the equal protection clause in the state constitution trumped the male/female language in the marriage statutes. That effort resulted in the backlash that passed Measure 36. Even in the wake of that defeat, the Oregon legislature created a “marriage in all but name” domestic partnership law championed by Senator Frank Morse (R – Albany). That separate but equal provision at least creates some basic rights and protections. With polls showing a huge 54 – 40 margin in favor of equality, the new measure should put Oregon on the right side of justice and history with the nine (and counting) other states.
Honorable mention this week goes to former Utah Governor and GOP Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman. In an article for American Conservative, he makes the case that if his party continues to oppose simple equality it will be “made irrelevant in the marketplace of ideas.”
While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody […] That was four years ago. Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. […] There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.
Well said, Gov. Huntsman, and thank you.