Monday, October 10, 2005

Oregon Civil Unions Backers Drop Plans for 2006

(Link) After losing a fight to gain civil unions, rights groups decide to focus on building a base of support before trying again -- this time by putting gay-friendly candidates in office.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
From Associated Press

Oregon's leading gay rights group has decided not to pursue a ballot measure next year to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, saying it will work instead on longer-term efforts to secure more rights for gays and lesbians.

Those will include "grass-roots" campaigning to help elect legislative candidates sympathetic to gay rights and to defeat House Speaker Karen Minnis and other civil union opponents in the 2006 election, Basic Rights Oregon said Friday.

Basic Rights and other activists had been discussing a possible ballot measure since the Oregon Legislature adjourned in August without approving a civil unions bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to gain most of the benefits of marriage.

The measure, which was backed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, was endorsed by the Oregon Senate but was blocked in the House, where Minnis and other Republicans argued it would violate the spirit of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which was enacted by Oregon voters a year ago.

Basic Rights spokeswoman Rebekah Kassell said Friday that after weeks of consideration, gay rights advocates decided not to try to take the civil unions issue to voters next year.

An initiative campaign likely would have been "ugly" and could have cost as much as $5 million, Kassell said.

Plus, she said that while public opinion polls indicate growing support among Oregonians for civil unions, if a civil unions measure went on the ballot and was defeated by voters, it could set back that cause for years to come, she said.

An initiative effort to try to enact a civil unions law would have encountered strong resistance from the Defense of Marriage Coalition, which led the effort to pass a gay marriage ban in the November 2004 election.

Tim Nashif, spokesman for the coalition, said the Senate-passed bill was worded so broadly and amended so many existing statutes that the civil unions would have amounted to "marriage by another name."

"If they had proposed an initiative similar to the Senate bill, we would have been put in a position where we would have strongly opposed it," Nashif said.

Kassell, meanwhile, said gay rights advocates aren't giving up on civil unions or companion legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Helping to elect more legislators who support gay rights could clear the way for passage of a civil unions law in the Legislature's 2007 session, the Basic Rights spokeswoman said.

"We are looking at lots of legislative races where we think we can have the most impact," she said.