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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.

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