As Washington voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election on whether the state should preserve a same-sex domestic partnership law passed by the Legislature this year, Oregon gay rights activists today launched a campaign to make gay marriage legal in Oregon.
Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s largest gay rights group, intends to get an initiative on the ballot by 2012 that will ask voters to lift the constitutional ban on gay marriage passed by voters in 2004, The Oregonian reports.
The goal is “to allow same-sex couples to legally marry in this state,” said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon “There is no substitute for the respect and dignity that comes with marriage.”
But Basic Rights can expect fierce resistance from the Oregon Family Council, the church-backed group that successfully ran the Measure 36 campaign in 2004 to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution, said Tim Nashif, the council’s political director.
“We’re going to fight it, and we’ll fight it just as hard now as we did in 2004,” he said. “I don’t think Oregonians are going to overturn Measure 36,” which defines marriage as a bond between only a man and a woman.
Oregon gay rights activists will be watching their neighbors in Washington, where voters are being asked to uphold the domestic partnership law passed by the Legislature this year by approving Referendum 71. They also will be watching what happens in Maine, where voters are being asked to ratify a same-sex marriage law. They will be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself — California voters last year overturned same sex marriage within months of it becoming legal.
Oregon, however, already has a domestic partnership laws. The 2007 Legislature passed laws to protect gay Oregonians from discrimination and to establish domestic partnerships that give same-sex couples most of the state protections and responsibilities of marriage. To date, the state has registered 3,196 gay and lesbian couples for domestic partnerships. A total of six states currently have made same-sex marriage legal – Massachusetts, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
A new poll conducted by a research center at the University of Washington shows Ref. 71, the Washington domestic partnership ballot measure, with a healthy lead. Fifty-six percent of those polled said they were certain to vote yes, the non-partisan poll showed. To read more on the poll, go here.
— Rita Hibbard