BREAKING: Basic Rights Oregon Launches Campaign to Put Marriage Equality on 2014 Ballot

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By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Today at 8 a.m., the newly formed Oregon United for Marriage will take its first official step toward putting marriage equality on the November 2014 ballot by establishing a petition committee aimed at qualifying the “Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Act.”

“We have worked tirelessly to build support for marriage equality in Oregon, to engage our community and our allies — and now it’s time to take the next step in winning the freedom to marry for all Oregonians,” says Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Jeana Frazzini in a release. “Today, we are inviting our partners and supporters to take this next step with us: To sign the sponsorship petition, and commit to uniting Oregon in support of the freedom to marry for all Oregonians.”

The proposed language would strike out the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (approved by voters in 2004) and replace it with language extending marriage rights to same-sex couples and protections to religious institutions. Oregon United for Marriage will initially submit two variations on the initiative’s language, ultimately settling on whichever one best communicates the measure’s intent. (See the initiative language at the end of this post.)

The fight for marriage equality in Oregon will build on 2012’s historic victories, including the approval of marriage equality ballot measures in Washington, Maine, and Maryland, the defeat of a constitutional ban on marriage equality in Minnesota, and the increasingly vocal support of President Barack Obama.

According to a December 2012 Public Policy Polling poll, the tide is turning in Oregon as well — 54 percent of those surveyed says they would vote to legalize same-sex marriage (versus 40 percent opposed). Among voters under 45, the gap widens with 68 percent in favor (versus 30 percent). A clear majority (77 percent) say that people should be able to vote on marriage equality, which is a good thing since a ballot measure is the only remaining avenue for it to be achieved in Oregon.

“Across the country, and right here in Oregon, we are on a journey of understanding. Our awareness has expanded dramatically in the last few years. As more and more people come to understand that committed couples, whether they are gay or straight, hope to marry for similar reasons, they’re coming to realize that this is much more than a political issue,” says former Governor Barbara Roberts in a release. “This is about love, commitment and family.”

Today’s filing is the first of many steps toward putting marriage equality on the ballot in 2014. OU4M will begin collecting signatures for the sponsorship petition on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 in a series of events across the state. Ramon Ramirez, president of PCUN, Oregon’s Farmworker Union, will be one of many to sign his name for marriage equality.

“In Oregon, there are certain truths we hold dear. We believe in freedom. In tolerance. In treating others as we would want to be treated ourselves. None of us would want to be told we can’t marry the person we love,” Ramirez says.

A list of all 14 community events can be found online at www.OregonUnitedforMarriage.org. The day will begin with a Faith Leaders for the Freedom to Marry breakfast in Washington County and will continue on with events in Portland, EugeneSalemBendMedfordGrants PassKlamath FallsLincoln CityAstoriaTillamookCorvallis, and Pendleton.

“Marriage matters because it’s how we define family,” says Rev. Tara Wilkins, executive director of Community of Welcoming Congregations and pastor of Bridgeport United Church of Christ. “Many clergy and religious traditions affirm the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. It’s as basic as the Golden Rule: Treating others as one would want to be treated includes allowing civil marriage for gay couples who are truly committed to each other.”

The Portland event will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hotel Monaco’s Alder Creek Banquet Room (506 SW Washington St.). A list of speakers will be released on Wednesday.

Frazzini emphasizes that the campaign to win marriage equality will be a collaborative effort including a diverse assortment of community partners from across the state.

“Now is the time to expand this conversation to unite Oregon in support of the freedom to marry. I’m excited about the opportunity for our stories to be told, our neighbors to be engaged, and new leaders to emerge,” she says.

Below is the proposed language for the marriage equality initiative.

Option 1:

Article XV, section 5(a). Policy regarding marriage.

It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage. It is the policy of the State of Oregon to recognize and protect the freedom to marry for all couples, regardless of gender, while also preserving and protecting the right of religious institutions and clergy to refuse to perform any such marriage.
(1) Freedom to Marry: The state and its political subdivisions shall issue marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of gender, provided they otherwise meet the requirements of Oregon law.
(2) Religious Protection: The existing right of religious institutions and clergy to refuse to perform a marriage shall be protected.
(3) Non-discrimination: All legally valid marriage between couples of the same gender shall be subject to the same laws as those governing marriage between couples of the opposite gender.

Option 2:

Article XV, section 5(a). Policy regarding marriage.

It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage. It is the policy of the State of Oregon to recognize and protect the right to marry, while also preserving and protecting the right of religious institutions and clergy to refuse to perform a marriage.

(1) Right to Marry: The state and its political subdivisions shall issue marriage licenses to all couples who otherwise meet the requirements of Oregon law regarding age, marital status capacity to consent to marriage, and degree of kinship.

(2) Religious Protection: The existing right of religious institutions and clergy to refuse to perform a marriage shall be protected.

(3) Non-discrimination: All legally valid marriages shall be treated equally under the law.

PQ Monthly is following up with Frazzini later this morning and will have more information later today. In the meantime, find out what you can do to advance the cause.