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May 18, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 20
 
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Oregon: Anti-Gay coalition announces repeal of new anti-discrimination, domestic partnership laws
Oregon: Anti-Gay coalition announces repeal of new anti-discrimination, domestic partnership laws
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

Oregon voters may have the final say on discrimination protections and domestic partnerships for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Oregonians. A right-wing coalition called -Defense of Marriage and Family, AGAIN! - has filed a referendum on Wednesday, May 16, that would repeal the new laws.

"The Oregon Family Fairness Act, which is the domestic partnership bill, and the Oregon Equality Act, which is the anti-discrimination bill, together seek to ensure basic fundamental fairness for all Oregonians and their families," said Bryan Boyd, communications coordinator for Basic Rights Oregon. "This week, it has become acutely apparent that some fringe right-wing groups seek to tear down Oregon families - no matter what the cost."

Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 2, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, housing and public accommodations, and House Bill 2007, which gives the same state benefits of marriage to same-sex couples through domestic partnerships.

The law is slated to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2008, unless the coalition is successful in collecting the 55,179 signatures required to put the issue on the Nov. 4, 2008, general election ballot.

In 2004, Oregon voters had approved Measure 36, a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Members of the coalition argue the Legislature violated the "will of the people" by adopting the two pro-Gay measures.

"We have to stand up for the rights of Oregonians," Marylin Shannon, a former Republican state senator and member of the coalition, told the Oregonian. "The Legislature doesn't have the right to undo the will of the people."

Janice Bentson, Aleksandr Voronko and Carolyn Wendell are the chief petitioners on the referendum papers. They draw support from the Constitution Party of Oregon, Restore America and Slavic churches. They claim to have a list of 129,000 households that supported Measure 36.

The coalition has 90 days after the Legislature adjourns on June 30th to collect the signatures. Boyd believes the group is likely to succeed, but warned that Basic Rights Oregon will seek to verify the validity of each signature.

"We do think that they will be able to get the signatures," he said. "It is a very small [number of signatures] in comparison to past ballot measures, especially Constitutional Amendment 36, which was just in 2004. For that one, the opponents gathered over 240,000 signatures when they only needed 140,000. And, they did it in five weeks."

Boyd adds that Basic Rights Oregon will launch an education effort in "one or two weeks" and are in the "beginning phases" of organizing a campaign. The group will make regular updates on its website, www.basicrights.org.

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