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Out, but NOT down.

Showing their support included Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams and Sens. Kate Brown, D-Portland, and Ben Westlund, R-Bend whom all made incredible speeches to the energized crowd.

At the rally, Adams said he was "proud to be Portland's first openly gay city commissioner." As he spoke, a heckler, holding a sign that said "God Deplores Your Vile Affection," shouted, "Go back to the closet."

"Honey, it ain't big enough for me any more," Adams replied. The crowd roared with laughter.

SALEM - Three months after Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, gay-rights supporters descended on the Capitol Thursday to demand that the Legislature outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and legally recognize civil unions between same-sex couples.

At a noon rally on the Capitol steps, gay-rights leaders vowed not to be deterred by the passage in November of Measure 36, the same-sex marriage ban that was approved by almost 60 percent of voters.

"People might think we're defeated, but we are not," Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, the largest gay and lesbian rights group in the state, told the cheering crowd. "We are not going away. This is our Oregon, this is our state."

Throughout the rally, a handful of hecklers shouted at the speakers, who included Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams and Sens. Kate Brown, D-Portland, and Ben Westlund, R-Bend. Before the rally, people on both sides of the emotionally charged debate engaged in a running shouting match, hurling insults and commentaries on religion and lifestyles at one another.

About 600 people, fewer than the 1,000 that organizers had predicted, attended the rally, which Thorpe said would kick off "the largest lobbying effort ever" in Oregon by gay-rights advocates. After the rally, participants marched into the Capitol to meet with lawmakers.

Thorpe said Basic Rights Oregon has three main objectives during the 2005 legislative session:

Passage of House Bill 2519, which would outlaw discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, public services and education on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill also would amend the state's hate-crime laws to cover sexual orientation.

Enactment of a civil-unions law that would give same-sex couples the same rights and protections as married couples.

Defeat of House Bill 2401, sponsored by Rep. John Lim, R-Gresham, which would grant an official "preference" in adoption of children to married couples over same-sex partners. Thorpe called the bill "a very insidious and terrible bill."

Brown and Westlund are drafting civil-unions legislation. But Thorpe said sanctioning of same-sex marriage remains the goal of Oregon gay-rights advocates.

"Right now, the political reality is lobbying for marriage only is not the most pragmatic choice," she told supporters before the rally. "We believe we can use civil unions to keep on course toward marriage."

Rally participants, who came from all over the state, gathered first at Willamette University across the street from the Capitol, where Gov. Ted Kulongoski greeted them. "You are an integral part of our future," he told the crowd.

In an interview, Kulongoski said he strongly supported anti-discrimination legislation but expressed skepticism about the prospects for passing a civil-unions bill, calling it "very tough."

EDWARD WALSH - THE OREGONIAN
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