With the eleven gay marriage amendments passing around the country, some who were for the amendment are trying to mend fences by bringing forth civil union status. That’s what’s going on in Oregon now, with legislation being put forth by Republican Ben Westlund.
Of course the rallying of the “fate of traditional marriage” and “that damn homosexual agenda” was soon brought up by fellow Republican Dennis Richardson crying, “If civil-union status is granted, there will be no turning back. The liberals and the homosexual-lesbian coalition will have won and the people’s vote in favor of traditional marriage will have been effectively nullified”. Even with a constitutional amendment, these biggots aren’t satisfied.
Seattle Times article archived here. Monday, November 22, 2004 – Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Oregon Republican to push for law allowing civil unions
By BRAD CAIN
The Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. — Just a few weeks ago, state Sen. Ben Westlund voted “yes” on Measure 36 to ban gay marriages in Oregon.
Now, the Central Oregon lawmaker is hard at work drafting a civil-unions bill for the 2005 Legislature to give gay and lesbian couples some of the rights bestowed on married couples.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” the Tumalo Republican says. “Nothing in Measure 36 prevents the Legislature from affording equal rights and privileges to same-sex couples.”
Not everyone in the Oregon Legislature agrees, though, and Westlund’s sponsorship of a civil-unions law will thrust him into the middle of what likely will be one of the thorniest debates of the 2005 session.
Already, battle lines are forming over what action — if any — is needed from the Legislature after voters on Nov. 2 approved a constitutional amendment specifying that marriage could only be between one man and one woman.
A key lawmaker, Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point in Southern Oregon, is urging his fellow House Republicans to resist civil-unions legislation.
“If civil-union status is granted, there will be no turning back. The liberals and the homosexual-lesbian coalition will have won and the people’s vote in favor of traditional marriage will have been effectively nullified,” Richardson wrote in an e-mail to other House Republicans.
One big question is how the Oregon Supreme Court will rule in a case resulting from Multnomah County’s issuing of marriage licenses to nearly 3,000 gay and lesbian couples in March before a judge halted the practice.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Dec. 15, and it’s not clear whether Measure 36 will affect the pending case.
Gay-rights supporters already have filed briefs urging the court to order the Legislature to pass a law creating a civil-union alternative to marriage for same-sex couples.
Lawmakers aren’t obligated to wait for the court, and Westlund said he and others are preparing to take up the challenge on their own.
Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown said she’s hopeful the court will issue a ruling soon after hearing the case and that it will provide the Legislature with a good guide.
“This is a very divisive issue,” the Portland Democrat said. “I don’t want to see us go through a difficult debate without some clear guidance from the Supreme Court.”
House Speaker Karen Minnis is noncommittal about what action the Legislature needs to take. However, she accused gay-rights supporters of being inconsistent on the civil-unions issue.
“What I heard throughout the whole Measure 36 campaign was the gay community wasn’t interested in the civil unions,” the Wood Village Republican said. “I don’t know if they have changed their mind on the subject.”
A spokeswoman for Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s leading gay-rights group, said there has been something of a shift in the organization’s stance since voters approved the gay-marriage ban.
Rebekah Kassell said that some gay-rights organizations do reject civil unions as conferring second-class, separate-but-equal status on same-sex couples.
In view of Measure 36’s approval, however, it might be a “step in the right direction” to give same-sex couples the same legal rights accorded to married people, even without the label of marriage, Kassell said.
The Defense of Marriage Coalition, which led the campaign to win voter approval of the gay-marriage ban, hasn’t taken a formal position on civil unions.
“When they define exactly what a civil union means, then we will take a position,” said coalition spokesman Tim Nashif.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company