Anti-gay referendum efforts flagging in Oregon

Posted on 16 Aug 2007 at 6:02pm
By Associated Press

Move to force vote on rolling back laws establishing domestic partnerships, anti-discrimination rules appears bound for failure



Oregon state representatives, from left, Greg Macpherson, Tina Kotek, Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley and Sara Gelser, celebrate after the House passed bills prohibiting discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and giving same-sex couples who enter into a domestic partnership contract rights and responsibilities comparable to those of marriage contracts in April. Efforts to force a vote on rescinding the laws appear to be failing.

PORTLAND, Ore. A bid to overturn two Oregon gay-rights laws appears to be flagging, its backers say.

Chief petitioner Janice Bentson estimates that only 5,000 to 10,000 signatures have arrived at her Salem home. The opponents have less than seven weeks to collect 55,179 valid signatures to refer the laws to voters in November 2008.

Bentson is part of a Salem-based political action committee, Defense of Marriage and Family Again, which opposes new laws creating domestic partnerships and banning discrimination against gays. Other groups are collecting signatures, but they are working independently, even at odds with one another, said Jack Brown of Grants Pass, chairman of the Constitution Party of Oregon.

“It is a movement without structure,” Brown said. “It is like a jellyfish.”

The laws take effect Jan. 1. If opponents collect enough signatures, the laws would be suspended until the election.

David Crowe, director of Restore America, a nonprofit founded in 1999 to urge Christians to vote, created a political action committee to collect petitions and is tapping evangelical churches. Crowe regularly appeals to more than 8,000 people on his e-mail list, but he is not seeing the results that produced Measure 36 against gay marriage in 2004.

“For two months now it has become increasingly clear that many, if not most, of the leading evangelical Churches in Oregon have given up the battle to protect and preserve traditional marriage,” he said in an e-mail Monday, Aug. 13.

The Oregon Family Council opposed the two gay-rights laws but decided against participating in the referral. Lawmakers granted its request for a strong religious exemption in the anti-discrimination law, said Tim Nashif, political director of the group.

Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s largest gay rights group, has noticed that petitioners do not seem to be working together, but assumes they will get the signatures, said spokesman Bryan Boyd.

“We don’t want to fight,” he said, “but if we have to, we have to fight very hard.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 17, 2007

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