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Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Roey's Election Night Speech

"I know this is a hard night for all of us.

This has been an amazing year of highs and lows, victories and defeats.

Many of us felt the joy of marrying our long-time partners this year. And now we know the pain of having the right to that marriage put to a public vote.

But let me tell you, this is not the way to decide social policy - - the Constitution was designed exactly for the purpose of preventing the rights of a minority from being determined by the whims of a majority.

The very notion that our Constitution can be changed to deny rights to a minority with a vote of a simple majority of those who turn out is ludicrous. We have higher standards for passing a school bond levy.

No matter what our opponents say, this is not a mandate on the rights of gay and lesbian people.

Polls show that 80% of Oregonians support protecting gays and lesbians. But in this short campaign cycle, Oregonians didn’t have time to fully digest the true consequences of this amendment and how it will hurt gays and lesbians and our families.

We will not give up.

Many states lost tonight far worse than we did. To come as close as we did is certainly a moral victory.

But this loss is harder on us in Oregon. In part, it's harder because after defeating three statewide ballot measures, we know what it feels like to win.

But it's also harder for us because we know more than any other state that faced this amendment this year WHAT WE ARE BEING DENIED.

So many of us have made huge sacrifices for the right to be equal and the right to have our relationships recognized, or to help others take their rightful place in our state.

And we aren't going to let tonight’s defeat stop us.

Here's what I know: you don’t get civil rights by sitting around waiting for them to fall in your lap. You don't get them without sacrifice and risk and pain. We are paying that price now. This is a painful setback. But on the road to equality and freedom, there are always setbacks. There are always sacrifices. There are always moments that seem like they are too much to bear, and times when we give so much of ourselves that it seems too unbelievably cruel when we don’t prevail.

This is one of those times. But I want you to look around you, at the good people who are in this room, and I want us to think about all the people of this state who have stood with us. And I want you to think of the many, many people who have changed their minds because of our work on this campaign. All of those who were able to question their assumptions, to open their hearts, to walk in someone else''s shoes.

If we say now that it's just too hard to keep fighting, then we are turning our backs on all of those victories. We can't do that.

This campaign has been a learning experience for all of us, and for all Oregonians as well. We may not have gotten a majority tonight, but all the momentum on this issue is going our way.

Because of our work, social attitudes on same-sex marriage are shifting daily. I have no doubt that if this election were held a week from now that we would have won.

Look how far we've come. A year ago, how many of us would have dreamed that same sex couples would marry in our lifetimes? How many of us would have thought that Oregon would be ground zero for this issue? Have no fear—our children will find the idea of banning same-sex marriage as inconceivable as the idea of banning inter-racial or inter-faith marriage.

We will remember this moment, because it will be impossible to forget the pain of this loss.

But we have to dust ourselves off and get back on our path. There will be future victories and there will be future defeats. But our victories will always outnumber the defeats, because we are on the side of true love. The true love we feel for our same sex partners, the true love we feel for our family and friends who deserve the right to marry, the true love we feel for this state and this country, both of which have always stood for freedom and equality. True love cannot be defeated, and although we may not have won at the polls tonight, we know that the love that we have shown throughout our entire campaign has changed this state.

Tonight, let’s celebrate what we’ve accomplished, and let’s support each other in this painful moment. And tomorrow, we'll get back out there and continue this fight, in the courts, in the legislature, and everywhere we need to be. Let's stick together and see this through until we win, for all of us, and because we believe in Oregon. Thank you."

-Roey Thorpe

What Does the Passing of Constitutional Amendment 36 mean now?

Monday, November 01, 2004
What does the passage of Constitutional Amendment 36 mean for the status of the more than 3,000 same-sex couples who are already married in Oregon?

It is not completely clear how this amendment will affect the marriages of those couples who are already married. Attorneys for ACLU and Basic Rights Oregon are carefully studying the issue. Some people have suggested that this amendment automatically and instantly invalidates these marriages. We do not agree. Only the courts can resolve that issue.On December 15th, the Oregon Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from all parties to the lawsuit brought by ACLU on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon, and a number of same-sex couples that challenged the constitutionality of Oregon’s marriage law (Li & Kennedy et al v. State of Oregon et al). This issue will be addressed as part of that lawsuit. This is an extraordinary case so it is difficult to speculate about the outcome. We’ll continue to keep you informed as new developments take place.

Will Basic Rights Oregon and the ACLU challenge the constitutional amendment in the Oregon Supreme Court?

Our attorneys are carefully considering all of our legal options, which may include filing a lawsuit to challenge any attempt to use this amendment to prevent marriage equality for same-sex couples. Before proceeding, both organizations will make sure that we are prepared to present the strongest case possible. Part of this determination will include taking into account any direction from the Oregon Supreme Court in the marriage case that is currently before the court. At this time the Supreme Court has directed attorneys on all sides to provide the court with statements about how this amendment affects the various aspects of the case. As soon as the best course of action is clear, we will proceed and we will continue to keep you informed about the next steps.

What is the status of the marriage case filed against the State of Oregon?

First—a review: Basic Rights Oregon has joined with the ACLU of Oregon and several Oregon couples in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the State of Oregon in attempt to attain marriage equality statewide for same-sex couples, which is currently before the Oregon Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is considering appeals from all parties to the April 2004 lower court decision, which said: 1) Oregon's marriage statute, which discriminates against same-sex couples, is unconstitutional because it bars same-sex couples from the rights and protections of marriage; 2) There is no justifiable reason for the State to discriminate against same-sex couples on the basis of gender or sexual orientation; 3) The State Legislature must remedy the discrimination and has 90 days to do so from the date it next convenes, whether in special or in regular session; 4) Until the matter is reviewed by the legislature, Multnomah County must stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; If the State Legislature does not remedy the discrimination within 90 days from the date it next convenes, Multnomah County is ordered to resume issuing marriage licenses; and 5) The State must record the marriages of the more than 3,000 same-sex couples already married in Oregon within 30 days from the date the judgment was entered on May 6th.

The State and Defense of Marriage Coalition (“DOMC”) appealed. ACLU, on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon and the individual couples, cross-appealed, as did Multnomah County, which had intervened on the side of plaintiffs. We are asking the court to overturn the portion of lower court decision that gives the legislature the option of shunting same-sex couples into civil unions instead of affording them full equality by allowing them to marry. On December 15th the Oregon Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from all parties to the lawsuit. The court has already asked attorneys on all sides to submit additional statements that argue how this amendment affects the various aspects of this case. It is difficult to speculate how soon the court may rule. It could be in a matter of weeks or it could take months before the Court issues an opinion.

What is the impact of the amendment’s passage on the marriage case that is currently before the Oregon Supreme Court? Could the case be dismissed?

It isn’t entirely clear at this time. We do expect that the Defense of Marriage Coalition—in light of the amendment’s passage—to file a motion to dismiss most if not all of the case. There are many ways in which the court could choose to address the amendment in the case. We can’t predict how the court will respond to the amendment but we do know that the court has already asked attorneys on all sides to submit additional statements that argue how this amendment affects the various aspects of this case. We will expect the case to proceed as planned until or unless we receive new instructions, direction or information from the Supreme Court.

Could the marriage case currently in the Oregon Supreme Court be used to overturn this amendment?

It is unclear. The issue before the court is whether it is constitutional to deny same-sex couples marriage and/or the benefits and protections of marriage through a separate vehicle—not whether the amendment itself is legally valid. Having said that, there are many ways that the court could choose to address the amendment as a new development in the case and we can’t predict how the court will respond. We do know that the court has already asked attorneys on all sides to submit additional statements that argue how this amendment affects the various aspects of this case.

Will BRO and ACLU settle for civil unions?

No. Basic Rights Oregon and ACLU believe that everyone deserves equal treatment under the law. While any attempt to extend rights to same-sex couples is a step in the right direction, we believe that civil unions, even at their best, are not equal to marriage in many important ways and ultimately result in disparate treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. We will work hard to educate lawmakers, reporters and the public about marriage rights and do everything possible -- at the statehouse and in the courthouse -- to achieve full marriage equality in Oregon.