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HOW YOU CAN FIGHT THE RIGHT'S ATTACK ON GLBT OREGONIANS

Friday, April 29, 2005
Let Oregon lawmakers know that we are counting on them to do the right thing by:

1. Showing your support in Salem on May 4th 2005 at the Oregon State Capitol as the Oregon Legislature hears testimony on Senate Bill 1000. Hearings begin at 5 pm. A rally on the capitol steps will begin at 4pm. Planning on attending or want more information? Email us!

2. Submit your statement of support for Senate Bill 1000 to the Senate Rules Committee. Click here.

3. Send a letter to your representatives. Tell them reciprocal benefits aren't good enough and that you are counting on them to support real equality by voting for Senate Bill 1000. Find your lawmaker and a sample letter here.

4. Send a letter to the editor of your local paper urging people in your community to support Senate Bill 1000 and reject the right's reciprocal beneficiaries. Find your newspaper and a sample letter here.

5. Call your lawmaker leave the following message: "I'm counting on you to support SB 1000 which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and create civil unions for same-sex couples. This bill is not about marriage, it is not about politics. It is about basic Oregon values: protecting people who are a part of the Oregon community and treating all Oregonians equally under the law. Oregonians deserve no less." Be sure to leave your name and address so they know you are a constituent. To find your lawmaker's contact information click here.

Picking protection, not perfection

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Gay Oregonians need civil unions, as well as safeguards from discrimination in housing and employment.

Last week, a remarkable thing happened in Connecticut. The Legislature approved civil unions for gays and lesbians without any judicial nudging -- simply because it was the right thing to do.

The Oregon Legislature can show the same courageous leadership in this session by approving Senate Bill 1000. It would create Vermont-style civil unions, offering gay Oregonians legal protections for their families, mirroring the rights and responsibilities married couples possess under state law.

Senate Bill 1000 would also ban discrimination against gays and lesbians when they seek housing, jobs or service in public places. Although it's hard to believe, circa 2005, gays and lesbians do face discrimination in all of these arenas. It's ugly, it's immoral -- but it's perfectly legal. The Oregon Legislature can make history by outlawing it.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, speaking Wednesday at a Basic Rights Oregon luncheon, renewed his call for the legislature to do just that. Kulongoski reminded the crowd that the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians in this state did not begin with last year's imbroglio over gay marriage. In 1975, Kulongoski and Vera Katz co-sponsored a bill in the Oregon House to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. "We lost in the House by one vote," Kulongoski said.

Other bills followed in other legislative sessions but they failed as well. As a result, we may imagine we're living in an Oregon where discrimination is only a bad memory, but we're not. Oregonians can be denied service in a bank or restaurant because they're gay, rejected for housing because they're gay and turned down for a job interview -- or even fired -- because they're gay.

In the long run, this kind of discrimination, which is no longer legal against religious and racial minorities, is legally unsustainable against gays and lesbians, too, Kulongoski said. It's also economically shortsighted and morally wrong, he added. It's a shameful blotch on our state.

Opponents to Senate Bill 1000 will argue that this bill gives gays and lesbians preferential treatment, but it's hard to fathom their reasoning. This bill wouldn't send gays and lesbians to the front of any line; it keeps them from being spat on and yanked from the line. That's not preferential treatment. It's simple decency.

As for civil unions, Kulongoski acknowledged Wednesday that they don't offer "perfect equality" to gay couples. They don't. Yet, since Oregonians have ruled out marriage for gay couples, civil unions do offer them protections roughly equivalent to what married couples have under state law. That's light-years ahead of not offering such protections. Sadly, the fact that the name is different may be enough to keep some people from supporting Senate Bill 1000.

They should reconsider. In Vermont, which invented civil unions, gay-rights supporters were also torn about whether to hold out for marriage or create a parallel system under a different name. They chose the latter.

Over the past five years, Vermont's pioneering compromise has shown many Americans they have nothing to fear from treating gays equally. What a setback it would have been had Vermonters held out for perfection.

Oregonians shouldn't hold out for it, either. Those who endorse the perfect option this year are, in effect, endorsing the do-nothing option.

Instead, the Oregon Legislature should follow Kulongoski's lead and make history by approving Senate Bill 1000. It will give gays and lesbians the strongest possible protections.

In Oregon, it will create something more workable and wonderful than a far-off perfection:

An imperfect equality.

Governor talks about gay rights at luncheon

Gov. Ted Kulongoski told representatives from Oregon's businesses on Wednesday he's prepared to fight "for as long as it takes" to pass legislation that will provide and protect rights for gays and lesbians.

He also criticized the Legislature for not yet acting to ensure gay-rights legislation is passed this session.

Kulongoski spoke at the annual fund-raiser lunch for Basic Rights Oregon, a non-profit group that works for gay rights issues. Many among the 500 people at the lunch represent Oregon businesses, including Nike, Powell's Books and Portland General Electric.

Kulongoski told them all committed couples need to be respected equally, and called on lawmakers who say they support such equality to start working on legislation.

"Now is the time for the Legislature to stop clapping and start acting," he said.

Kulongoski wants lawmakers to pass a Senate Bill he introduced that would grant the rights of marriage to gay and lesbian couples through civil unions and would make discrimination based on sexual preference illegal.

He said it would be "morally unacceptable" not to pass the bill, and said the legislation is needed because sexual descrimination still exists in Oregon.

While those at the event praised Kulongoski, Tim Nashif of the Defense of Marriage Coalition criticized Kulongoski's Senate bill as an attempt to "basically gut marriage."

Nashif's group supports "reciprocal benefits," which would grant selected rights to all sorts of family groups, including two brothers living together or two friends. A bill will be introduced soon to provide for reciprocal benefits. (TO LEARN HOW RECIPROCAL BENEFITS UNDERMINE TRUE EQUALITY CLICK HERE)

Nashif said the group is opposed to Kulongoski's bill because it grants all the rights of marriage to gay couples and also give gays "minority status."

Kulongoski, however, said the recent Supreme Court ruling that cancelled 3,000 marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples by Multnomah County "clearly left the door open for the Legislature to create civil unions."

"This is an opportunity they must not miss," he said.

Kulongoski's remarks were met with applause and a standing ovation.

"It feels good to be in a state where the governor has taken that kind of leadership," said Kregg Arntson, a spokesman for Portland General Electric who attended the event.

The governor was praised by Basic Rights Oregon for his long-running support of gay rights.

"Nowhere else has a governor stepped up to take leadership in a way that this governor has," said Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.

Governor Kulongoski: There is no middle ground between right and wrong!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Our Governor delivered a very powerful speech today at the Basic Rights Oregon 12th Annual Luncheon Against Discrimination. Here is a transcript of his speech.

Oregonians Against Discrimination Luncheon: Remarks by Oregon Gov. Kulongoski.

Thank you Roey for your introduction, and for leaving the steep hills of Ithaca, New York to come here and climb an even tougher hill – ending discrimination, once and for all, against Oregon’s gay, lesbian and transgender community.

I also want to thank and congratulate Michael Powell and Sho Dozono for being honored to today for their leadership in ending workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The same congratulations go to all of the Oregon businesses that are working to end discrimination – many of whom, I know, have joined the Fair Workplace Project.

I would be remiss if I didn't recognize two people who have been very important to me both in my political life and personally – Don Powell and Terry Bean.

Finally I offer a special thanks to Senator Kate Brown. Kate is a friend. An ally. A trusted confidant. And a truly great leader – not only for Oregon’s gay and lesbian community, but for all Oregonians. Most of all, she is a wonderful human being.

I want you to know that I’m very proud to be here today – and to have this chance to talk to the members and friends of Basic Rights Oregon. We go back a long way. I know many of you personally. You’ve stood with me in my many runs for public office – and we’ve stood together on the side of fairness and equality. That will not change.

As most of you know, when I was a very young man I joined the Marines. Marines like to call themselves the “tip of the spear” – the first into battle and the first take incoming fire.

I’ve thought for a long time that Basic Rights Oregon is the tip of a different kind of spear: You are first into the battle for justice – and the first to take incoming fire from people who insist on defending the indefensible.

So the fight for justice and equality is never easy. It takes patience to educate the public – and a lot of courage to stand up for what’s right. But that’s what Basic Rights Oregon has always done. And when the walls of resistance start to crumble – as inevitably they do – our entire nation wins.

That’s why I think Basic Rights Oregon is one of the most important organizations in this state. Not simply because you’re fighting for a particular cause that I have long believed in. But because you are one of Oregon’s strongest – and most effective – voices for fundamental American values.

Privacy, liberty, dignity, and equality – not bigotry – are what this country is really all about. And they’re what Oregon must be about.

The reason is simple: To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, a threat to anyone’s basic rights is a threat to everyone’s basic rights. That is why the reach of your activism – and your pursuit of equal treatment under law – is critical not only for the gay community, but for all Oregonians.

So although they may not know it, even your opponents benefit from your tireless insistence that what George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm has no place here.

We must never – and I mean never – accept the proposition that all Oregonians are equal but some Oregonians are more equal than others! Until that proposition is laid to rest once and for all, I pledge to you – I will not rest.

That means, together, we are going to continue this fight day after day, year after year, legislative session after legislative session – for as long it takes until we achieve victory.

As Roey pointed out – I have been in this battle with you for my entire public career. I was actually the keynote speaker at the first Right to Privacy dinner in 1981, which was named after Lucille Hart. But my support for gay and lesbian rights in Oregon goes back even further.

In 1975, I introduced and helped lead the fight for House Bill 2288, which was the first bill in Oregon to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. It’s also important to mention that the co-sponsor of that legislation was Vera Katz. We lost in the House by one vote.

In 1977 two anti-discrimination bills were introduced. And in 1979 – my first year in the Senate – there were six more. All failed to become law.

A lot has changed in my life – and the life of this state – in the last three decades. But one thing that hasn’t changed is my core belief that government has no business making judgments about which committed relationships between two adults should be favored – and which should be disfavored.

All committed couples deserve to be respected – and are owed a zone of privacy which neither government – nor employers – should be allowed to intrude on.

That is why I have fought so hard – and for so long – to end legal discrimination against gays and lesbians in Oregon. That is why sexual orientation has never been a factor in my appointments or hiring from the Oregon Supreme Court, to my staff, to any other position
in state government. And that’s why I co-sponsored – and will fight very hard to pass – Senate Bill 1000.

I’ll talk more about the SB 1000 in a moment. But the important point is: I have never needed convincing that discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgenders is legally unsustainable, economically shortsighted, and morally wrong.

And since I first became involved with this issue, I have never understood why anyone else should need convincing either. Unfortunately, many people – including some in the Legislature – do need convincing.

So let me once again lay out the case. We must add sexual orientation to state laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations for three reasons.

First – because those who claim that discrimination no longer exists are simply wrong. This is not about so-called “special” rights – and never has been. That language is both infuriating and willfully misleading.

This is about protecting the basic right not to be turned down or fired from a job. Not to be told an apartment has already been taken when it is still on the market. And not to be denied service at restaurants, financial institutions or any other business that serves the public.

Gays and lesbians in Oregon still face this kind of bigotry. That’s bad enough. But to say that the law should turn a blind eye to ongoing discrimination – or cannot be strengthened to protect a class of people long treated a second-class citizens is simply wrong.

The second reason we must make sexual orientation part of our anti-discrimination statutes is because we can’t afford not to.

I’ve been Governor for over two years, and I’ve said from the beginning that my highest priority is to grow Oregon’s economy. This is the only way we’ll have more money for our public schools. It is the only way we’ll be able to reverse a decade of disinvestment in higher education. It is the only way we’ll be able to match the skills of employees with the needs of employers. And it is the only way we’ll be able to retain existing businesses and attract new ones.

The question is: What does it take to grow the economy?

The list is long – from a strong manufacturing base to an educated workforce. But at the very top of the list is a commitment to tap the creativity, skills and energy of all of our people.

We cannot afford to ignore or lose the talents of tens of thousands of Oregonians whose sexual orientation happens to be different than the majority of our citizens. Diversity and equality of opportunity make us stronger – not weaker.

We don’t move ahead by leaving others behind. We move ahead by affirming that we really are one Oregon – with one common destiny.

Which brings me to the third and most important reason why we must pass anti-discrimination legislation this year: It is morally unacceptable not to.

I often call Oregon “America’s Promise Land” because of our extraordinary natural beauty. But America’s great promise is not just found in the physical majesty of our mountains, rivers and coastline. There is also the majesty of our values and principles.

These values and principles affirm that we are all created equal. That we are a nation governed by the rule of law – not the whim of rulers. And that who we are – and the sexual orientation we start with in life – should not stand in the way of how far we reach in life.

As I told the Legislature on the first day of the session: Opportunity must be an open door through which every citizen can pass, not a revolving door that turns for some and doesn’t budge for others. Those words were greeted with loud applause. But now is the time for the Legislature to stop clapping and start acting.

After thirty years of trying to pass an anti-discrimination law, words of support and good intentions aren’t good enough anymore.

What matters now is moving the bill and lining up the votes we need to put Oregon where it has always belonged – on the side of equality, human dignity, and social justice. On this issue – there is no middle ground between right and wrong.

That means, until we do what’s right, a moral wrong that could have been – and should have been – corrected decades ago will remain a stain on the character of the state all of us love.

As everyone in this room knows, Senate Bill 1000 has two parts. The first is the anti-discrimination provisions that I’ve been talking about. The second is the creation of civil
unions in Oregon.

I want you to understand: It is the policy of my administration – and my deep personal belief – that creating civil unions for gays and lesbians is no less important than ending discrimination against gays and lesbians. As far as I’m concerned, they stand on the same moral plane.

It is also my deep personal belief – as well as my view as a lawyer and former Oregon Supreme Court justice – that denying same sex couples the benefits and protections accorded to opposite sex couples violates the Oregon Constitution.

The Oregon Legislature now has the opportunity to remedy that violation by providing same sex couples all of the legal benefits and protections accorded to opposite sex couples.

I know that there is disappointment – even anger – among many BRO members over the passage of Measure 36. Putting discrimination in the Constitution is wrong for Oregon. I opposed it last year – and I still oppose it.

But we should not let our long-term goal of undoing Measure 36 stand in the way of our more immediate goal of according equality of rights and benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. And we don’t have to.

The Oregon Supreme Court did not answer the question as to whether the Oregon Constitution requires civil unions. However, the Court clearly left the door open for the Legislature to create civil unions. And, frankly, that’s their responsibility.

The Legislature can fulfill this responsibility by approving and sending to my desk Senate Bill 1000. This is an opportunity they must not miss!

SB 1000 sets up a legislative structure for civil unions that mirrors, almost word for word, the legislative structure for marriage.

Civil unions are not perfect equality. I understand that. But civil unions will provide the same benefits, protections and responsibilities that are incident to marriage – and will align Oregon with Vermont and Connecticut, and put us light years ahead of every other state except Massachusetts.

Let me explain what I mean by “same benefits, protections, and responsibilities.” This is what Section 67(1) of SB 1000 says: “Partners in a civil union have the same privileges,
immunities, rights, benefits, and responsibilities under the laws of this state, whether derived from statute, administrative or court rule, policy or common law, as are granted to or imposed on spouses joined in a marriage.”

And Section 67(5)(a) says: “Whenever the term ‘marriage’ or any other term that denotes or includes the marital relationship or the status of marriage is used in the laws of this state, the term includes a civil union.”

This language is sweeping, and it has real practical effect. To take some of the more obvious examples: Civil unions will require a state issued license and can be solemnized by a member of the clergy or a county clerk. Civil unions will give gay and lesbian partners the same right to make end of life decisions as married spouses. The same right to workers’ compensation survivor benefits and to collect insurance proceeds. The same right to statutorily guaranteed health and disability benefits. The same right to create a family and parent children. The same right to protection under Oregon’s intestacy statutes. The same right to sue to for wrongful death that spouses currently have. And, yes, the same right to dissolve the union with the help of lawyers and the courts.

I ended my list by mentioning lawyers for a reason. The whole issue of same-sex marriage and civil unions is practically drowning in a sea of legalisms and legal strategies. That’s true for all three branches of government.

I’ve had my say. The Attorney General has had his say. The courts to this point have had their say. And the Legislature – as it debates SB 1000 – will have its say.

But what we’ve been debating for the past year is not just about constitutional theory, legal analysis, separation of powers, and who has the best legal argument on their side.

This is about the human heart – and being free to answer its call.

It is hard for me to imagine what my life would like without this freedom. But it is not hard for me to understand how fundamentally unfair it is to deny this freedom to others. To tell another human being: Your longings don’t matter. Your choice of who to love is illegitimate. Your family isn’t a socially acceptable family. All of this is wrong – and I think ultimately hurts not just gays and lesbians, but our entire community.

Fredrick Douglas once said, “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” Bigotry against homosexuals is not slavery. But it is a chain that keeps both gays and non-gays from moving forward.

We need to break that chain – and free ourselves from the burden of trying to dictate the wants of another person’s heart.

It is wasted energy that could be much better spent rewarding all committed relationships, which will in turn improve Oregon’s quality of life by making our children healthier, our communities safer, and our spirits pointed in the direction that I believe they are intended to point, toward finding greater unity among the human family by ensuring greater equality among all its members.

Thank you.

THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES IN THE LEGISLATURE!

How Reciprocal Benefits undermine true equality...
The next several weeks will be the fight of our lives in the Oregon legislature to pass SB 1000, which would create civil unions and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

But, this week opponents of fairness for GLBT Oregonians, the Oregon Family Council, Defense of Marriage Coalition and extreme house conservatives, are expected to introduce a "Reciprocal Beneficiaries" bill in the Oregon house. This bill is an attempt by religious extremists to appear "moderate", to undermine any real chance at fairness for same-sex couples and to dominate the terms of this debate by making civil unions look too extreme for Oregon.

With this move by the Right and Senate Bill 1000 firmly supported in the senate, the name of the game now in the Oregon legislature is negotiation. If Oregon lawmakers don't hear from supporters of REAL fairness and equality, then those on the fringe will decide this issue for the rest of us.

Our opponents say this bill addresses "legitimate issues of fairness" for same-sex couples. But don't be fooled. Reciprocal beneficiaries are anything but fair. . .and they are not the same as civil unions.

  • While civil unions provide roughly 500 rights and protections, reciprocal beneficiaries chip away at the bedrock of family protections civil unions offer to provide only a handful of rights (most of which can already be achieved through contracts).
  • While civil unions seek to recognize committed same-sex relationships and create a lasting family unit, reciprocal beneficiaries degrade these relationships by lumping same-sex couples into a status also available to two siblings, roommates, parents and children, or two widows.
  • The State of Oregon has a moral and constitutional obligation to ensure that all committed, same-sex couples have the ability to enter into a civil status that allows their families to be treated equally under the law.
  • In the debate over same-sex marriage, civil unions (Senate Bill 1000) are the only reasonable compromise in step with Oregon's values of fairness and dignity for all its citizens.
We are already hearing from some lawmakers who think these partial protections are good enough, who believe the DOMC's outrageous claims that discrimination doesn't exist and that Oregonians voted against civil unions when they voted for Measure 36.

Some lawmakers do not believe that we will hold them accountable for voting with Tim Nashif and the Defense of Marriage coalition and against fair-minded Oregonians who want REAL fairness for same-sex couples.

The Fungus Factor: Something Stinks in the State of Oregon

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Fungus Factor goes like this: prejudice is like a fungus. It grows in dark, cold places, which means it is often hidden from view. In air and direct light, it dies. The work that all of us have been engaging in when we are bringing up issues and telling the truth about our lives is that light and air. Prejudice can't survive the blinding light of truth.

But let's not forget that before the fungus dies, it smells really bad. In fact, it stinks. And in Oregon what is happening right now is the smell of something pretty long-festering and disgusting hitting the air.

It’s been a hard week for all of us at BRO staff and supporters alike. It would have been wonderful to have the time to celebrate the leadership that Governor Kulongoski is showing by endorsing Senate Bill 1000, and to thank the bipartisan sponsors of the bill. But that was not to be. Instead, we were faced with a court decision that declared that the marriages of over 3,000 same sex couples were now declared null and void. It was heartbreaking and many people called and emailed us, crushed at the news.

That would have been hard enough, but the decision seems to have encouraged the expression of some of the most vile and nasty feelings about GLBT people. Without shame, people have been unleashing their hate and fear, openly declaring that we are dangerous predators, obsessively promiscuous, and biologically defective. These are not only outrageous lies, but the expression of them is hateful and cruel. As if we weren’t in enough pain, we now have to figure out how to keep going and hold our heads up when we are being attacked, dehumanized, and lied about everywhere we turn.

There seems to be no end to the outright lies and blaming GLBT people for the attack on us from the Defense of Marriage Coalition and Oregon Family Council. Never mind that Measure 36 was filed before the Multnomah County marriagesthe DOMC says they were forced by the county commissioners to introduce a ballot measure. Never mind that SB 1000 has nothing to do with educational curriculumthe Oregon Family Council says we’ll be teaching gay sex in elementary schools. Never mind that all through the campaign, the DOMC said they only cared about marriagenow they have hired a lobbyist to oppose civil unions and any nondiscrimination bill.

Why is this hatred surfacing now? Why, after so many years, does it seem like the nastiness of the 1992 No on 9 campaign is back? Lots of reasons, probably. Measure 36 passed, and that has enabled the DOMC to claim they have a mandate, as though the measure was not about marriage, but about gay people generally. A new group of right wing extremists has emerged, and the power is going to their heads. But there’s another reason, too, which I think of as the Fungus Factor.

The Fungus Factor goes like this: prejudice is like a fungus. It grows in dark, cold places, which means it is often hidden from view. In air and direct light, it dies. The work that all of us have been engaging in is that light and airwe are bringing up issues, we are telling the truth about our lives. Prejudice can’t survive the blinding light of truth.

But let’s not forget that before the fungus dies, it smells really bad. In fact, it stinks. And I think that what is happening right now is the smell of something pretty long-festering and disgusting hitting the air. Many of us probably thought it was not so bad here in Oregon, that time and several ballot measure campaigns had killed it off. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

It would be tempting to shut the door on it and run away fast. But we can’t do that, as painful and unpleasant as this experience is. There are a lot of people who would like to believe, as Tim Nashif of the DOMC keeps saying, that there is no discrimination against GLBT people in Oregon. Others would like to believe that the dehumanization and hatred of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is over. Well, you have only to read the letters to the editor in your daily paper to see the terrible truth of how people really feel.

In order to kill off this prejudice, we’re going to have to face it. It’s going to have to smell really bad here in Oregonmaybe even worse than it does right now. Either that or we just go back to where we were 18 months ago: silent, complacent, not wanting to rock the boat, even if it meant that we and our families continued to face discrimination without recourse every single day. At BRO, we’re not going back, and we hope that you don’t want to either. It is really hard right now, and it will continue to be. The good news is that it is getting harder for middle-of-the-road people to deny that prejudice exists when it is being spilled all over the media on a daily basis. Believe me, no one is going to be able to ignore this smell, so let’s just keep on getting out there and shining your light on it wherever it lives.

--Roey Thorpe

Morse: Why I support SB 1000

Thursday, April 21, 2005

We all bring great depth of convictions to discussions on matters of great public importance. For most of us, we are able to discuss the issues in small groups, at home, at work, and at our churches. For me, as an elected representative in the state Senate, the circumstances are much different.

It would be easy and politically expedient to take the path of least resistance and remain silent. However, I have chosen to take a very public position with respect to the rights of gay persons, as one of four chief co-sponsors of Senate Bill 1000.

My intent through SB 1000 is to focus thoughtful discussion in the Legislature to establish policies that recognize the needs of members of the gay community who wish to legally memorialize committed long-term relationships.

My intent is also to make it quite clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not acceptable in any circumstance.

I am aware of the strength of conviction of those who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. I hold this belief as well.

As voters have defined and now the courts have confirmed, the definition of marriage is not in dispute. The question remains, however, "Is there a place in Oregon statutes for persons of the same sex who wish to commit themselves to each other in life-long relationships?"

The purpose of SB 1000 is to answer this question in the crucible of public discourse.

Although it is uncomfortable to be so public with such private convictions, I believe the public has a right to know why I have chosen to sponsor this bill.

My conviction stems from a Christian faith and belief that we must love. It is easy to love those who believe, think, feel, act and look like we do. However, it is often very hard to love those who do not believe, think, act and look like we do.

Love is not passive. It is an act of reaching out to help others. It is inclusive. It accepts people for who they are. It is feeling others' pain and then doing something about it. It is listening and then understanding. It is enduring and unshakable. Love brings quality, fulfillment and purpose to our lives.

For me it then becomes a question of how I should reach out in love to persons with a sexual orientation different than mine. Is there a place for love in the public discourse on gay rights, discrimination, civil unions and reciprocal benefits? Or do we stand in judgment, void of compassion, of those who are different?

I certainly hope and pray that love and compassion will guide our debate and will provide the foundation for the policies of our state.

Frank Morse, a Republican, is serving in his second legislative session as the state senator from District 8, Albany and Corvallis.

Source: The Albany Democrat-Herald

Answers to Your Questions About the Supreme Court Ruling in Li V. State of Oregon

Sunday, April 17, 2005

About Li V. State of Oregon
Following a decision by the Multnomah County Commissioners to begin issuing marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on March 24, 2004, seeking marriage for same-sex couples in the state. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon and nine same-sex couples, four of whom were married after receiving licenses in Multnomah County. The couples reside throughout the state and come from all walks of life, ranging from doctors and police officers to an electrician to a teacher.

The lawsuit, which was initially filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, charges that Oregon’s marriage statute, which bars same-sex couples from marriage and the protections that come with marriage, violates the state constitutional guarantees of fairness and equality set forth under Article I, section 20. Article I, section 20 states, “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

On April 20, 2004, the Multnomah County Circuit Court agreed with the ACLU and Basic Rights Oregon, finding that Oregon’s marriage law is unconstitutional. The court did not decide how Oregon must treat same-sex couples going forward, but instead gave the state legislature a deadline for creating a system for providing same-sex couples with all the protections of marriage. While the court stopped Multnomah County from issuing further licenses to same-sex couples, it ordered the state to record the 3,000 marriages that had already taken place. The decision was appealed and went before the Oregon Supreme Court. While the case was working its way through the courts, the Defense of Marriage Coalition, a group opposed to marriage for same-sex couples, sought to prevent additional lesbian and gay couples from marrying by pushing for a constitutional amendment to end the public debate over the issue. Constitutional Amendment 36 passed on November 2, 2004. At the request of the Court, on November 17, the ACLU filed a supplemental brief with the Oregon Supreme Court outlining the effect of Amendment 36 on the pending lawsuit. In light of the passage of the amendment, the ACLU had argued to the state’s high court that civil unions would be an appropriate remedy in the lawsuit. In addition, the ACLU asked the court to find that the State of Oregon is still obligated to fully recognize the marriages of the 3,000 same-sex couples who received marriage licenses from Multnomah County earlier this year. Oral arguments in the case were held on December 15, 2004 and a decision was handed down on April 14, 2005.

Ballot Measure 36, filed as an amendment to the Oregon Constitution, was approved by Oregon Voters voters on November 2, 2004. The language of the measure reads: “It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.”

What Is the Opinion in Li V. State of Oregon?
The summary of the court's opinion is as follows:

"In summary, we conclude as follows. First, since the effective date of Measure 36, marriage in Oregon has been limited under the Oregon Constitution to opposite-sex couples. Second, Oregon statutory law in existence before the effective date of Measure 36 also limited, and continues to limit, the right to obtain marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples. Third, marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Multnomah County before that date were issued without authority and were void at the time that they were issued, and we therefore need not consider the independent effect, if any, of Measure 36 on those marriage licenses. In short, none of plaintiffs' claims properly before the court is well taken. Finally, the abstract question whether ORS chapter 106 confers marriage benefits in violation of Article I, section 20, of the Oregon Constitution is not properly before the court. The case is remanded to the trial court for dismissal."

What does the ruling mean?
First, the court has NOT ruled on the fundamental constitutional question in the case which is whether the Oregon Constitution requires equal protections for the relationships of same-sex couples via a civil union. The court left the option open for the legislature to address or for a separate lawsuit seeking marriage-type benefits for same sex couples. BRO and the ACLU had originally sought marriage as the only acceptable remedy in the case, but after the passage of Measure 36 suggested that civil unions would be an appropriate remedy in light of the amendment. However in today’s decision, the Court reasoned that, since we had initially asked for marriage, it would be procedurally improper to rule on the issue of civil unions.

Second, the court ruled that Multnomah County did not have the authority to grant the more than 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples last year and determined that they were void when issued.

What will Multnomah County do with the license fees paid by same-sex couples?
Multnomah County will issue refunds of the $60 license fee to all same-sex couples who applied for a license last year. The checks will be mailed to the couple’s home address.

Is there any way to appeal the court’s decision?
No. The Oregon Supreme Court is the final authority in the State of Oregon. The only option for challenging state Supreme Court decisions is to file a lawsuit in federal court. This court, however, is not expected to be friendly to us on this issue and, with the current Administration is likely to become even more conservative. A federal challenge could also ignite motivation for the US Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which would put an end to progress on this issue indefinitely and end any discussion regarding gay rights issues at the federal, state and local levels for a long time to come. As other states begin to weigh in on this issue, it will become more apparent as to how the states will collectively proceed along with the support of national LGBT organizations. In the meantime, Basic Rights Oregon will continue to focus its efforts on maintaininga dvancing equality for all Oregonians within this state in the legislature, courts and community level.

Has a lawsuit been filed to challenge Ballot Measure 36?
Basic Rights Oregon attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday, January 31 challenging the constitutionality of Measure 36, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by Oregon voters on November 2, 2004. The legal challenge, filed in Marion County Court, is based primarily on a two-part argument. The first claim asserts that Measure 36 revises, rather than amends, the Oregon Constitution by violating the fundamental principles of liberty and justice on which the Constitution is based, by changing the allocation of power among the branches of government because it restricts the role of the courts in interpreting the constitution and by imposing a policy on local governments. Secondly, while Measure 36 contains only one sentence, the addition of this provision to the Oregon Constitution creates multiple changes that should have been proposed as separate amendments. Because these multiple amendments and fundamental changes were all included under the umbrella of Measure 36, the measure violates constitutional provisions which require that voters must approve separate amendments with separate votes. Currently, the Marion County Court is reviewing the legal challenge and the timeline for this case could take a couple of years. To read more about the Martinez V. Kulongoski case, click here: http://www.basicrights.org/news/newsitem.asp?ID=108

Is the ACLU involved in the challenge to Measure 36?
The ACLU has taken the lead in the Li V. State of Oregon case filed on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon and nine same-sex couples in March of 2004, which is currently before the Oregon Supreme Court. For strategic reasons related to that case, the ACLU is not directly involved in the challenge to Measure 36. ACLU attorneys have, however, consulted on the case and the ACLU and BRO continue to work in close connection with one another in the fight for marriage equality.

What Is the Next Step for Basic Rights Oregon?
As always, Basic Rights Oregon is committed to fighting for civil rights and equal protections of all Oregonians. While we continue to consult with our attorneys to evaluate our legal options, we turn our attention to the Oregon Legislature. Basic Rights Oregon is working with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and a bi-partisan group of Oregon Senators from across Oregon to introduce a bill in the Oregon Senate that would provide legal protections and recognition of committed, same-sex relationships through a civil union and outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the State of Oregon. The bill represents the culmination of months of successful lobbying by Basic Rights Oregon and our supporters on the Oregon Basic Fairness Act (HB 2519) introduced in the Oregon House earlier in the session and civil unions. Both pieces of legislation are now combined in the new bill. Co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown (D-Portland) and Senators Frank Morse (R-Albany), Ben Westlund (R-Tumalo) and Alan Bates (D-Ashland), Senate Bill 1000 would:
* Amend Oregon law to create civil unions, defined as a civil contract entered into by two members of the same sex who are at least 17 years of age and are not first cousins or nearer of kin, and are not parties to a marriage or another civil union. While a civil union is not a marriage, it would confer on same-sex couples the legal protections, rights and responsibilities generally afforded to opposite sex couples through marriage; and
* Amend Oregon’s existing non-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodation, education and public services statewide.

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 protect same-sex couples is a step in the right direction, we believe that civil unions, even at their best, do not provide the same broad legal and social recognition as marriage and, ultimately, result in unfair treatment of same-sex couples.

While we remain deeply committed to achieving full marriage equality, we recognize that may take some time, especially given the clear passage of Amendment 36. In the meantime, it is better that same-sex couples have most of the protections and security for their families rather than none. Even incremental movements toward equality are still movements forward. We will work hard to educate lawmakers, reporters and the public about why it is not fair to treat committed same-sex couples as strangers. ACLU and BRO will continue to do everything possible -- at the statehouse, in the courthouse, and in the public arena -- to change state laws that exclude gay and lesbian families from the protections marriage provides.

Why doesn’t Basic Rights Oregon pursue a proactive ballot measure seeking civil unions or other GLBT rights?
During the campaign against Constitutional Amendment 36 and other anti-gay ballot measures in Oregon, we have all felt the sting of having the rights of a minority put up to public vote by the majority. Basic Rights Oregon strongly believes that voting on minority rights is wrong—even if it means we could win. That said, it is also much more expensive to pass a ballot measure, than to defeat one. We spent almost three million dollars to defeat amendment 36—and lost. We would need much more to propose a ballot measure and win. Another consideration is that placing a measure on the ballot could put us in the very difficult position of running two campaigns—one to pass our measure and one to defeat another anti-gay measure—at the same time. While we won’t absolutely rule out this idea, we believe that we might accomplish more—with less risk—by working legislatively with our elected allies to achieve our goals.

Will the State recognize a marriage from Canada?
Neither Oregon courts nor the Attorney General have specifically addressed whether the State must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of Oregon, but given the passage of Measure 36 it seems unlikely that the state would do so.

Will I be able to marry in Massachusetts, and will Oregon recognize that marriage?
Any marriage (same-sex or opposite-sex) performed outside of Oregon must be recognized as valid within the state it was performed for Oregon to recognize that marriage. If you are considering marrying in Massachusetts, you should know that Massachusetts Governor Romney has expressly forbidden clerks from issuing licenses to out-of-state couples. Therefore, any trip planned to Massachusetts for a wedding may result in disappointment. Even if a couple manages to obtain a marriage license there, the case for recognition of the marriage in Massachusetts, and thus in Oregon, will be much more difficult in light of Governor Romney's pronouncement. Furthermore, while neither Oregon courts nor the Attorney General have specifically addressed whether the State must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of Oregon, given the passage of Measure 36 it seems unlikely that the state would do so. Also consider that if you someday needed to divorce, Massachusetts has a one year residency requirement before a marriage can be dissolved. The bottom line: if you don't live in Massachusetts, there's a lot to consider before tying the knot.

Where Can I get a Copy of the Opinion?
A full text version of the case including the opinion of the Oregon Supreme Court can be found through the Oregon Judicial Department at www.publications.ojd.state.or.us. The opinion is also available on the American Civil Liberties Union Web site at www.aclu-or.org.

How can I stay informed about what is happening and the status of the Measure 36 case?
One of the best ways to stay informed about marriage-related news is to make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter -- Basic Writes Weekly. Also, check back regularly to review answers to frequently asked questions. Our new website allows us to update breaking news instantly to get you the news as soon as it happens. Basic Rights Oregon will continue to keep you as informed as possible as this case proceeds through Oregon courts. Many of these issues are complex and not easily resolved until we have a ruling from the high court. We recognize that it is difficult to wait for resolution and answers. We know it is hard to be patient.

We want to assure you that we are here for you if you have further questions or concerns. Drop us an email at info@basicrights.org or call 503-222-6151.

Basic Rights Oregon and ACLU Undeterred After Oregon Supreme Court Delays Ruling on Issue of Fairness for Lesbian and Gay Couples

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Groups Urge Oregon Legislature to Enact Civil Union Bill Endorsed by Governor Kulongoski Yesterday

The American Civil Liberties Union and Basic Rights Oregon today said they were disappointed but undeterred by the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision to delay ruling on the underlying issue of fairness for same-sex couples in a lawsuit brought by the groups.

"The Court’s decision is not surprising considering the fact that a constitutional amendment was passed that created procedural disputes in the lawsuit," said Dave Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon. "This is just a speed bump in the road for basic fairness for all families. It may take longer for us to get there, but we will continue to fight in the legislature and courts until all families are provided the protections they deserve."

The Court’s decision also invalidated the 3,000 marriages by same-sex couples that took place last year in Oregon.

"Today’s decision underscores the urgency for the state legislature to pass the civil union bill that was endorsed by Governor Kulongoski yesterday," said Roey Thorpe, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. "This morning 3,000 same-sex couples saw their hopes for family protections pulled right out from under them. It’s time for our lawmakers to put politics aside and do right by these and all the other lesbian and gay couples in this state who need to be able to protect their families."

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on March 24, 2004, on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon and nine same-sex couples seeking marriage. While the case was working its way through the courts, the Defense of Marriage Coalition, a group opposed to marriage for same-sex couples, sought to prevent additional lesbian and gay couples from marrying by pushing for a constitutional amendment to end the public debate over the issue. Constitutional Amendment 36 passed on November 2, 2004.

In light of the passage of the amendment, the ACLU had argued to the state’s high court that civil unions would be an appropriate remedy in the lawsuit. However in today’s decision, the Court reasoned that, since we had initially asked for marriage, it would be procedurally improper to rule on the issue of civil unions.

"It’s unfortunate that lesbian and gay couples and their children will be denied protections for their relationships while we continue to litigate this issue. We are confident, however, that ultimately the Court will agree that it’s unfair to treat same-sex couples, who make the same kinds of commitments that married couples make, as legal strangers," said Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.


Tonight's Locations.

Join Basic Rights Oregon tonight at Community Gatherings Around Oregon.

In Portland: First Unitarian Church. 1011 SW 12th Ave. 6:00 p.m. 503-222-6151

In Salem: First Congregational Church. 700 Marion St. NE 6:00 p.m. Kristin Flickinger 503-910-8474

In Bend: Human Dignity Coalition Office. 354 NE Greenwood Ave. #109 (Spectrum Building), 6:30 p.m. Contact: Bruce Morris 541-280-0738

In Medford: Southern Oregon University, Stevenson Union, Rm 319. 6:00 p.m. Contact: Jeffrey Foust 541-973-5883

Join Basic Rights Oregon tonight

Plan to join us tonight in Portland, Bend, Medford, Salem and Eugene for post Supreme Court decision events. Locations to be announced later today. Keep this evening open.

BREAKING NEWS! Oregon State Supreme Court Rules in Li. V State of Oregon

The Oregon Supreme Court handed down a ruling today in the case of Li V. State of Oregon.

The summary of the court's opinion is as follows:

"In summary, we conclude as follows. First, since the effective date of Measure 36, marriage in Oregon has been limited under the Oregon Constitution to opposite-sex couples. Second, Oregon statutory law in existence before the effective date of Measure 36 also limited, and continues to limit, the right to obtain marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples. Third, marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Multnomah County before that date were issued without authority and were void at the time that they were issued, and we therefore need not consider the independent effect, if any, of Measure 36 on those marriage licenses. In short, none of plaintiffs' claims properly before the court is well taken. Finally, the abstract question whether ORS chapter 106 confers marriage benefits in violation of Article I, section 20, of the Oregon Constitution is not properly before the court."

The court has NOT ruled on whether the Oregon Constitution requires equal protections for the relationships of same-sex couples via a civil union.

The positive aspects of this decision, however, are overhshadowed by court's decision to invalidate the more than 3,000 marriages performed in Oregon last year. We feel enormous sadness knowing that thousands of same-sex couples who recently celebrated their first anniversaries as married couples have had those marriages painfully revoked.

Nothing about this decision precludes Basic Rights Oregon or the ACLU from continuing to advocate for civil unions in Oregon courts or the Oregon Legislature. Continuing that fight is exactly what we will do.

We know that struggles to end inequality do not succeed overnight. This is the latest chapter in a long movement. Growing public understanding and the momentum of history are on our side.

The experiences of the last year have made us more prepared than ever to successfully argue the fundamental issues of this case. We feel confident as we continue this or related litigation, that Oregon courts will put an end to the exclusion of committed couples from the protections and responsibilities other Oregon families count on.

As we better understand the opinion issued by the court, we will continue to make updated announcements throughout the day.

Click here for the history of the case and a timeline of events.

ACTION ALERT: Help Restrict Boy Scout Discrimination in Portland Public Schools

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
On Wednesday, April 13, the Portland Public Schools (PPS) Board will hear public comments about a revised policy which outlines protocols for the distribution of information at school by non-school groups.

The revised policy was created in response to recent formal complaints and legal action related to the recruitment of students at school by the Boy Scouts. Because the Boy Scouts discriminate based on sexual orientation, parents and community groups including the ACLU, Basic Rights Oregon, Oregon Safe Schools and Community Coalition, Love Makes a Family, GLSEN and others have testified that the dissemination of literature and recruitment by the Boy Scouts at schools is damaging to the children of LGBT parents and in violation of the school districts own discrimination policies, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

While the Portland Public Schools has made some changes, they haven't done enough.

Attend the school board meeting and tell them they still need to protect LGBT families, kids and teachers.

Demand that the revised policy include:

  • A provision requiring that ALL non-school literature be sent home in sealed envelopes, rather than being handed directly to young children who are too young to determine whether the literature is school or teacher sponsored.

  • A requirement that groups declare who is included and excluded from participation in the group or activity.

    Can't attend? The school board will accept comments on the policy via email. Send a message now! Links below.

    Click here to locate your representative

    Douglas Morgan (Zone #1)
    douglas.morgan@pps.k12.or.us

    David Wynde (Zone #2)
    david.wynde@pps.k12.or.us

    Bobbie Regan (Zone #3)
    bobbie.regan@pps.k12.or.us

    Derry Jackson, Sr. (Zone #4)
    derry.jackson@pps.k12.or.us

    Lolenzo Poe (Zone #5)
    lolenzo.poe@pps.k12.or.us

    Julia Brim-Edwards (Zone #6)
    julia.brim-edwards@pps.k12.or.us

    Dilafruz Williams (Zone #7)
    dilafruz.williams@pps.k12.or.us

    Suleima Cortez
    scortez@pps.k12.or.us

  • Candlelight Vigil Tonight Before The Supreme Court Rules

    Join Basic Rights Oregon for a candlelight vigil tonight! Events are taking place in Medford and Salem.

    In Salem: 7 p.m.at the Oregon Supreme Court. 1163 State St. in Salem

    In Medford: 7:30 p.m.at VOGEL Plaza (Ginger Rogers Theatre) the corner of Central and Main St.

    The Oregon Supreme Court announced today that it will issue a ruling tomorrow, Thursday, April 14th in the case of Li V. State of Oregon. Filed last March by Basic Rights Oregon, the ACLU and nine same-sex couples, the Li/Kennedy case could decide whether the Oregon constitution requires the state to make equal benefits and protections for same-sex relationships available via a civil union and whether the approximately 3,000 marriages entered into by same-sex couples in Oregon last year are valid.

    Before the decision is handed down, join Basic Rights Oregon this evening at 7 PM outside the Oregon Supreme Court (1163 State St, in Salem) for a community gathering and candlelight vigil.

    On the day of the decision, our attorneys will quickly evaluate the court's opinion. We will immediately send you an announcement with our initial impressions. Expect ongoing communication from us throughout Thursday as we further evaluate the decision and plan to join us Thursday night in Portland, Bend, Medford, Salem and Eugene for post-decision events. Locations to be announced Thursday.

    For a discussion of possible outcomes, click here.
    For background on the case, click here.

    Court to rule Thursday on same-sex couples

    SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court will rule Thursday on nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples last year in Multnomah County before the practice was stopped, the court said in an announcement on its Web site.

    Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden ordered the county to stop issuing the licenses in April 2004 and recommended that the 2005 Legislature craft a law that would guarantee gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples.

    But the ruling was appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court after the Defense of Marriage Coalition challenged the validity of the marriage licenses issued by Multnomah County.

    Without elaboration, the high court said on its Web site Wednesday it will rule Thursday on that challenge.
    Members of the Legislature have been awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling to give them guidance on how to proceed on the issue of same-sex couples.

    Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced Wednesday he would push for a civil unions bill to give gay and lesbian couples some of the rights bestowed on married couples.

    Kulongoski pledged to back a civil unions law expands on his announcement in January that he would support legislation extending anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians.

    The Democratic governor said Wednesday that he is working with a bipartisan group of senators on a bill that combines a proposed civil unions law with the anti-discrimination provisions.

    "As I stated in January, we face a great moral challenge to make sure opportunity is an open door through which every citizen can pass — not a revolving door which turns for some and doesn't budge for others," he said.

    The legal limbo over the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling had kept Senate Democrats from pushing bills that create civil unions and advance gay rights.

    But Kulongoski said he is moving ahead on the civil unions and anti-discrimination legislation. The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Kate Brown of Portland and Alan Bates of Ashland and Republican Sens. Frank Morse of Albany and Ben Westlund of Bend.

    The state's leading gay rights group, Basic Rights Oregon, praised the governor's decision to move ahead on civil unions legislation.

    "All Oregonians should take pride today in Gov. Kulongoski's tremendous public and personal commitment to ending discrimination," said Roey Thorpe, the group's executive director.

    Republican leaders in the House had no immediate reaction to Kulongoski's announcement that he was backing civil unions legislation, said Chuck Deister, a spokesman for House Speaker Karen Minnis.

    However, Deister said last week that House Republicans would wait to see how the state Supreme Court rules before moving on the issue.

    In Wednesday's announcement, Kulongoski said the civil unions bill he's now pushing would confer on same-sex couples the legal protections, rights and responsibilities generally afforded to married couples.

    The bill also would amend Oregon's existing anti-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, public accommodation, education and public services.

    By BRAD CAIN The Associated Press

    KGW: Kulongoski pushing for civil unions law

    Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he will push for a civil unions bill in the 2005 Legislature to give gay and lesbian couples some of the rights bestowed on married couples.

    Kulongoski's backing of a civil unions law expands on his announcement in January that he would support legislation extending anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians.

    The Democratic governor said Wednesday that he is working with a bipartisan group of senators on a bill that combines a proposed civil unions law with the anti-discrimination provisions.

    "As I stated in January, we face a great moral challenge to make sure opportunity is an open door through which every citizen can pass — not a revolving door which turns for some and doesn't budge for others," he said.

    Kulongoski's announcement comes as the Oregon Supreme Court is preparing to rule on a challenge of the state's marriage law. That ruling is expected soon.

    The legal limbo over that court challenge had kept Senate Democrats from pushing bills that create civil unions and advance gay rights.

    But Kulongoski said Wednesday he is moving ahead on the civil unions and anti-discrimination legislation. The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Kate Brown of Portland and Alan Bates of Ashland and Republican Sens. Frank Morse of Albany and Ben Westlund of Bend.

    The state's leading gay rights group, Basic Rights Oregon, praised the governor's decision to move ahead on civil unions legislation.

    "All Oregonians should take pride today in Gov. Kulongoski's tremendous public and personal commitment to ending discrimination," said Roey Thorpe, the group's executive director.

    Governor Introduces Civil Union/Non-Discrimination Bill Today

    Oregon Governor to Introduce Combonation Civil Union / Non-Discrimination bill at request of Basic Rights Oregon.

    regon Governor Ted Kulongoski announced today that he will introduce a bill this week in the Oregon Senate, at the request of Basic Rights Oregon, that would provide legal protections and recognition of committed, same-sex relationships through a civil union and outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in the State of Oregon. The bill represents the culmination of months of successful lobbying by Basic Rights Oregon and our supporters on the Oregon Basic Fairness Act (HB 2519) introduced in the Oregon House earlier in the session and civil unions. Both pieces of legislation are now combined in the new bill.

    "All Oregonians should take pride today in Governor Kulongoski's tremendous public and personal commitment to ending discrimination," said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe. "The Governor's clear and decisive leadership on this legislation is not only remarkable in the State of Oregon, but unmatched by any other governor in the country."

    Co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown (D-Portland) and Senators Frank Morse (R-Albany), Ben Westlund (R-Tumalo) and Alan Bates (D-Ashland), Senate Bill 1000 would:

    Amend Oregon law to create civil unions, defined as a civil contract entered into by two members of the same sex who are at least 17 years of age and are not first cousins or nearer of kin, and are not parties to a marriage or another civil union. While a civil union is not a marriage, it would confer on same-sex couples the legal protections, rights and responsibilities generally afforded to opposite sex couples through marriage; and

    Amend Oregon's existing non-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, public accommodation, education and public services statewide.

    "For too many years, efforts to advance basic fairness for gay and lesbian Oregonians and their families have been stalled, ignored or cast aside," said Thorpe. "Today, with bipartisan leadership from across Oregon, our state is charting a new course toward an Oregon that keeps its promises of fairness and equality to all of its citizens."

    Oregon Supreme Court to Issue Decision Thursday in Li V. State of Oregon

    The Oregon Supreme Court announced today that it will issue a ruling tomorrow, Thursday, April 14th in the case of Li V. State of Oregon. Filed last March by Basic Rights Oregon, the ACLU and nine same-sex couples, the Li/Kennedy case could decide whether the Oregon constitution requires the state to make equal benefits and protections for same-sex relationships available via a civil union and whether the approximately 3,000 marriages entered into by same-sex couples in Oregon last year are valid.

    Before the decision is handed down, join Basic Rights Oregon this evening at 7 PM outside the Oregon Supreme Court (1163 State St, in Salem) for a community gathering and candlelight vigil.

    On the day of the decision, our attorneys will quickly evaluate the court's opinion. We will immediately send you an announcement with our initial impressions. Expect ongoing communication from us throughout Thursday as we further evaluate the decision and plan to join us Thursday night in Portland, Bend, Medford, Salem and Eugene for post-decision events. Locations to be announced Thursday.

    For a discussion of possible outcomes, click here.
    For background on the case, click here.

    BRO'S Annual Oregonians Against Discrimination Luncheon

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005
    This is the one of those events that you cannot miss. Basic Rights Oregon annual "Oregonians Against Discrimination" Luncheon. This year, the event features remarks by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski! You won't want to miss it, so mark your calendar now!

    Event Date: Wednesday, 4/27/2005
    Event Time: 11:30 AM-1:00 PM

    WHERE: Hilton Hotel, Grand Ballroom Downtown Portland
    TICKETS: $50 per person or $500 for table of 10

    CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW

    For more information or to become a sponsor, contact:
    Brenda Kinoshita 503-222-6151 or brenda@basicrights.org

    IT'S TIME: Moving Ahead in the Legislature

    Tuesday, April 05, 2005
    After years of defensive battles with little forward movement in the fight for equality, this is the year that the Oregon Legislature must act to ensure fairness for all Oregonians.

    The bottom line is: basic rights for sexual minorities need to be addressed right now, whether it is discrimination in housing, employment, education, or accommodation or discrimination against same-sex couples who lack adequate legal recognition and protection for their committed relationships.

    While BRO has already introduced legislation in both the House and the Senate, we also continue to pursue every available avenue for getting lawmakers to focus on our entire legislative agenda. We could do it with one bill and one vote. Or we may have to lobby piece by piece. Regardless of which path we take, we need to have you there with us: stronger, more visible and more committed than ever before to doing whatever it takes to achieve equality. Stick with us, and we'll make sure you're the first to know about new developments in Salem.