Opponents of law giving some rights to same-sex partners fall short by 116 signatures; law will go into effect next year
SALEM, Oregon Opponents of Oregon’s new same-sex domestic partnership law failed to turn in enough valid signatures to block the measure, clearing the way for it to take effect next year, state elections officials said.
Oregon will join eight other U.S. states that have approved spousal rights in some form for gay couples Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay couples to marry.
The Oregon measure covers benefits related to inheritance rights, child-rearing and custody, joint state tax filings, joint health, auto and homeowners insurance policies, visitation rights at hospitals and others.
It does not affect federal benefits for married couples, including Social Security and joint filing of federal tax returns.
Former state Sen. Marylin Shannon, a spokeswoman for the opponents’ petition drive, and other social conservatives believe the domestic partners bill violates the intent of voters who in 2004 adopted a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
“This just flies right in the face of that ban,” the former Republican lawmaker said Monday, Oct. 8.
Gay rights backers said most Oregonians make a distinction between gay marriage and domestic partnerships, and they support providing protection under state law for same-sex couples who are in committed relationships that currently are not recognized by the state.
“They know that committed couples should have the legal means to take care of each other, especially in a crisis,” said John Hummel, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.
Opponents had conceded in recent days that they probably had not gotten enough signatures. But they vowed to take another avenue to try to derail the law along with another law that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
State elections officials reported Monday that the effort fell short 116 valid signatures of the 55,179 needed to suspend the law and place it on the November 2008 ballot for a popular vote.
Still, Monday’s announcement was a major victory for supporters of the two new laws that had been stymied for more than 30 years in the Legislature before being approved by the House and Senate in May of this year.
In 2004, about 3,000 same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses in Multnomah County before the Oregon Supreme Court nullified the licenses as unconstitutional the following year.
Gay rights activists said that many of those couples plan to file for domestic partnership status as soon as the new law takes effect Jan. 1.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 12, 2007