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Reciprocal benefits bill: NOT a solution for gay families.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

(AP) — Carolyn Weir asked lawmakers Tuesday night to provide both of her sons — one gay and one straight — the same rights.

"Our straight son has a path before him which is unencumbered and filled with state-sanctioned supports for his family, while his gay brother faces a path littered with legally allowed obstacles in his efforts to share his life with the person he loves," the Sisters resident told a House panel that was taking public testimony on a bill that would grant "reciprocal benefits" to nontraditional couples.

The bill, advanced as an alternative to civil unions, would grant a set of about 20 benefits to any two people over age 18, including relatives and same-sex couples. The rights mostly center around property issues and emergency or end-of-life situations.

Weir and gay rights advocates oppose the bill because they say it does nothing to protect gay and lesbian families, and it does not provide gay couples similar benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

But supporters of the bill told the House Judiciary Committee that the bill takes care of nontraditional families without dealing with homosexuality in state law.

Lillian Gonzalez said granting civil unions instead of reciprocal benefits would discriminate against she and her sister Maria, who have been in what she described as a committed relationship for more than 25 years, sharing a home and supporting each other financially.

"It is devastating to know that if she were to die, I would be left with very little, if anything," Gonzalez said.

If the bill were to pass, couples like the Gonzalez sisters could apply for the benefits and be granted the ability to jointly own, inherit or pass on property. They would also be able to obtain medical records, make certain health care decisions and access the other's safe deposit box after death, among other things.

Unlike civil unions, the bill would not grant health insurance benefits or pension benefits to couples. Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said he combed through marriage rights before writing the bill, and excluded anything that would cost the state money because he feared it would prevent the bill from passing.

The Gonzalez sisters were two of nearly 70 people signed up to testify in the hearing, which Chairman Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, said he hoped would end by 11 p.m. An overflow room was set up so people who couldn't fit in the packed hearing room could still watch the hearing.

Former Rep. Tootie Smith, who works for the Oregon Family Council, said the Senate's civil unions bill — backed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski — is marriage by another name and the House bill will provide gays and lesbians "rights and benefits they did not have easy access to, or any access to, last year, or last week for that matter."

At a press conference before the hearing, Jeanna Frazzini fought back tears as she described how she and her partner of eight years have no legal obligation to each other.

"If my partner lost her job today, and if I were not a better person, I could refuse to support her, even if we remain together," Frazzini said. "She and our child could end up on welfare, a burden on the state, but the state would have no right to seek support from me."

Under the bill considered by the House, Frazzini and her partner could apply for reciprocal benefits, but it would have no effect over parental rights of their 15-month-old son.

The reciprocal benefits union could also be terminated on short notice by either member, or would be ended automatically if one were to get married.

J Graigory, son of Rep. Donna Nelson, R-McMinnville, appeared at the press conference and the hearing to speak against the bill.

Graigory, who is gay, said most members of his family have barely spoken to him since the 2004 election, when Nelson said she favored banning gay marriage and, in response, Graigory announced publicly that he is gay.

Graigory traveled from California to tell Oregon lawmakers that the reciprocal benefits bill is "demeaning, inadequate and unfair," and that the civil unions bill would be better for everyone.

The Associated Press

Reciprocal Benefits Don't Meet the Needs...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Surgery could hurt both twins...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Despite rumors - legislators are simply considering this option. It has not happened yet. Make sure it doesn't happen! Click here to take action now.

Editorial from OregonLive.com:

It was disappointing to learn Tuesday that Senate Bill 1000, which started out as landmark legislation to protect the rights of gays and lesbians in Oregon, has apparently now been split in two.

The original bill had twin goals: Outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, employment and public accommodations, such as restaurants, stores and theaters; and create Vermont-style civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

We don't pretend to know the precise thinking behind this legislative surgery, but we do know it says something sad about Oregon. It appears that one half of the bill -- which would have protected gays and lesbians from discrimination -- may have been sacrificed to increase the chances that the other half (creating civil unions) will thrive.

In reality, both halves are essential. And although it was unusual, there was something inspired about twinning the two in the original SB1000. Legislators say each has a penumbra of complexities, and resolving those will be easier if each stands alone. Maybe so, but there was an elegant economy about combining the two. In effect, they argue for each other. Both stand on the same bedrock principle: that all Oregonians are equal, no matter their color, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

In Oregon today, amazingly, it's legal to refuse to hire or even to fire gays and lesbians because they're gay or lesbian; to reject their housing applications because they're gay or lesbian; and to refuse to serve them in restaurants because they're gay or lesbian. This is so wrong that it, honestly, seems like a throwback to another century.

But it's not. People who testified against SB1000 justified keeping discrimination against gays and lesbians intact with rationalizations they would never use against Catholics, Jews or Asian or African Americans. These minorities have also faced ugly discrimination in past eras, but circa 2005, most people know such prejudice is wrong, and that Oregonians of different races, ethnic heritages and religious beliefs have every right to seek out housing, apply for jobs and live their lives. Gay and lesbian Oregonians should enjoy the same rights -- but they don't.

Supporters of the original Senate Bill 1000 said Tuesday that the surgery performed on the bill shouldn't be interpreted as leaving the anti-discrimination provisions to die. Both halves of the bill are important, supporters said, but there was a fear that both halves of the bill would die if they stayed joined.

"I'm passionate about both of them, and both should go forward," said Sen. Ben Westlund, R-Tumalo, one of the co-sponsors of SB1000.

If the Oregon Legislature succeeds in creating civil unions, this surgery may look tactically brilliant. But it is depressing to see anti-discrimination legislation -- something so basic -- move to the bottom of the legislative stack.

The original Senate Bill 1000 would have been a landmark. When you cut a landmark in two, it's diminished, no matter how you look at it. Both halves of this bill are vital to make Oregon a safe, fair, welcoming state for all Oregonians.

Make sure it doesn't get split into two bills! Click here to take action now.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Today Oregon lawmakers announced plans to consider the introduction of a new bill aimed at enacting civil unions only—leaving aside the issue of protection for gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, education and public services for a separate discussion.

While Basic Rights Oregon is encouraged by the continued interest in addressing discrimination faced by Oregon same-sex couples and their families, we do not support a “piecemeal” approach to protecting Oregonians from all kinds of discrimination.

“No form of protection from discrimination is more important than another,” said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe. “Oregon cannot choose to provide legal protection and recognition to same-sex couples and their families and at the same time ignore continuing legal discrimination that allows those same couples to be expelled from a restaurant or denied a home solely because of their sexual orientation.”

SB 1000, which was drafted at the request of Governor Ted Kulongoski on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon, would require only one vote in the House and Senate to create civil unions for same-sex couples and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations, housing, employment, public services and education in the State of Oregon.

“We will continue to urge legislators to follow the lead of Oregon’s Governor and support SB 1000 as the best way to address discrimination across the board,” said Thorpe. “Most Oregonians believe discrimination against gay and lesbian families and individuals is wrong. They want politicians to stop playing games with the lives of gay people, put an end to discrimination and move on with the other business of the state.”

Friday, May 20, 2005
Republican Sen. Ben Westlund of Bend has been flooded with phone calls, mail, e-mail and facsimiles attacking him for his support of SB 1000, a measure that would allow same-sex Oregon couples to form civil unions and protect gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from discrimination. The Source Weekly submitted a freedom of information act request to Westlund’s office asking it to provide us with one day’s worth of e-mails on the topic—which are legally considered public records when they deal with public business. Westlund’s office complied.

What follows is a selection of those e-mails.

We are publishing these messages because we feel it is important for the public to get a sense of the tone of the opposition to SB 1000, and to know the extent and depth of the bigotry that exists in our community, among our neighbors, acquaintances and co-workers. The spelling, punctuation and grammar are as they were in the originals. We have omitted addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses but we have included the writers’ names, in the belief that people who are willing to make such statements should be willing to put their names on them.

And we are hereby conferring the Boot on every one of them.

Please tell me why anyone with a sane mind would back a corrupt bill like this one, which will cause no end of grief, lawsuits, force employers to hire objectionable people with aids to handle food, work in medical laboratories and other technical places that require complete sanitary conditions.

Where is all this freedom that everyone talks about? No one should be forced to accept against their will and better judgment a bill like sp 1000. This law if passed will promote incurable diseases costing the taxpayers a bundle of money, blocking our courts and also making the appearance of our places of business look like hell and give 3% of our population as much freedom as they want to force their vulgar way of life on 97% of the population, who don’t want it. Don’t forget that this bill sp 1000 only covers the people that flaunt sex ahead of everything else.

Norman Kneisel

I am opposed to this bill because the only thing that it really does is provide tax incentives for same sex couples. We do not need any more tax loop holes.

Leonard Peoples

Dear Senator Westlund,

We want you to know that we strongly oppose SB 1000 and the granting of a special status to people whom practice deviate homosexual behavior. Your support of homosexual behavior is unacceptable to us.

Douglas & Juanita King

I want to encourage you to vote in tandem with the constituants that sent you there, and not against the wishes of the magority of the voters that voted to preserve “marrige” as one man one woman.

TP Holdings LLC
Leon Methvin

Dear Senator Westlund

My wife and I didn’t send you to Salem to join Portland liberals and sponsor minority status for gays, lesbians and create same-sex civil unions!

Legislation has not been created for African Americans or Asians to give them special status. 57 percent of Oregonians voted to preserve marriage as only between one man and one woman. Civil unions is just another name for marriage.

Stan & Rita Kenniston

Senator Westlund- please wake up!

Obviously, all citizens need to have all rights protected. Those rights that you feel some are missing...simply address them.

There is no need to copy the north east states ... I.e. First issued marriage certificates, then when that failed, went to civil unions. Everything that you will include in SB 1000 can be handled in a “rights guaranteed” manner via legislation.

Although Multnomah County runs the Tate...please remember who asked you to be “our voice”.

Bruce Boylen (72 yr. Oregonian)

My wife, Sharon and I reside in Redmond, Or and while we are live long conservative Republicans, next election we are not going to vote for anyone - we intend to vote against you.......we just discovered that not only do you support SB1000 but you sponsored it. What in the world is wrong with you? Civil union is marriage under a different name....did you not follow the outcome of measure 36?

Ronald J. Sample

Dear Senator Westlund,

I am so disappointed to hear you are supporting SB 1000. Do you realize what you are doing? I voted for you with confidence believing that your morals were correct. Now, I see that my marriage and family really means nothing to you. You may never have to answer to my face, but you will someday answer to the creator of the universe for your deeds. He who seeks to please man first is a fool.

Jennifer Thomasson

Ben, we did not send you to Salem to go against 57 percent of Oregonians to sponsor bad public policy. Please change your vote to no on SB 1000

Wilma Patrick

Dear Senator,

I am writing to urge you to not endorse SB 1000. Please remember that over half of all voters recently communicated in a very clear and concise manner that they are proponents of marriage being defined as 1 man and 1 woman. My other concern is, what is going to happen if minority status is given to gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals & transgendered? The long term effects of this decision will be devastating to our culture and future generations. Please reconsider.

Thank you,
Joe & Zeitel Zachary

I guess you just don’t get it!!!! Oregon voted to preserve marriage between one man and one woman. We are totally ashamed of you for trying to circumvent our votes by promoting “civil unions” or anything of the like.

We are not haters of gay people, but promoting the gay agenda as a “normal lifestyle” is unacceptable.

We have always voted for you but that won’t happen again.

Elmer and Eleanor Reznicsek

Why you support this is beyond what the average guy can believe. You certainly don’t support families or the near 60 percent of Oregonians that voted to preserve marriage as one man and one woman. Typical Oregon politics. Ignore the voter and do what you want anyway. Better run as one of those Portland liberals next time around Ben because you sure wont be getting this family of Republicans votes when you run for re-election.

Ron Lane

Senator Westlund,

I’m contacting you to strongly urge you to oppose SB 1000. I am a pastor of a Messianic Jewish congregation in Bend Oregon, and am a registered voter. I have no wish to see SB 1000 passed. I agree with the Oregon family council: “ ... We didn’t send you to Salem to join with Portland liberals and sponsor minority status for gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgendered. And create same-sex civil unions.”

Just say no!

Mark Mclain

Dear Senator Westlund,

I have been a strong supporter of yours for several years now. I am a small business owner in the Bend area and want badly to support my local Republican leaders. I cannot however support you in the future if you continue your support of SB 1000. I believe this bill goes directly against the values that people (including myself) voted for when passing measure 36, and when we voted for you as our Senator. It is very important to me that people not be granted special rights just because they chose to engage in deviant behavior. This has been strongly represented in the way that I and a majority of Oregonians vote at election time.

Kole Whalen

Senator Westlund

Please vote no on SB 1000. We voted for you to represent the majority of citizens, not special interest groups consisting of liberals, gays and lesbians who want to support same sex marriages! As a taxpayer I find it unconscionable that you would even consider a bill that will ultimately result in teaching children that gay and lesbian relationships are normal and acceptable. Not in my America and not with my taxpayers dollars! Please consider what you’re about to do. Thank you.

James M. Morrell

As conservative Republicans in Bend. We strongly object to your support of SB 1000. You can count on losing our votes in the next election .

Fred and Jetta Bertsch

We did not vote you in so that you could join the liberals. We voted you in to do what we wanted and needed you to do for us. If you go thru with this we won’t be voting you in again, and we will let everyone we know hear what it is you are trying to do to us.

An interested Oregonian
Tina M. Berry

Dear Senator Westlund,

Oregonians voted clearly against same sex marriage during the last elections. The same people are opposed to same sex civil unions. We are the people who sent you to Salem to represent us, so when the time comes, vote no on SB 1000.

Same sex unions of any kind are wrong and go against the very fabric of the fundamental tenets this nation was founded on.

Best regards,
Andrew Shooks


Just a quick note letting you know Patty’s and my position in regards SB 1000.

Call it civil unions, call it marriage, call it whatever you want. Public confirmation of any union between two people is marriage.

This public act between the same sex is wrong ! Legally and morally. The strength of our society is proportional to the strength of our family. Our beautiful American society is having it’s struggles because the American family is having it’s struggles.

Please consider this question. Will this Senate bill that you are sponsering strengthen the American family?

When the American family is gone, America will be gone.

Ben, we respect you, we respect your judgment.

Have a great day, god bless always,

Dean & Patty Larkin

Please oppose SB 1000. We do not need this legislation; it’s bad public policy and unnecessary. Where is this country going We need more leaders who believe in religious values, and the fact that one man/one woman is a marriage...why all of a sudden after thousands of years do you want to change that? And most of the voters in Oregon voted not to change that. Please......... Oppose SB 1000.

E.L.J. Grandpierre and Mildred C. Grandpierre

Senator Westlund,

SB1000 is bad policy! It is social engineering at its liberal worse. Be the Republican you were voted into office to be! Vote no.

Toby Wilson


I was very disappointed to discover that you were sponsoring this bill. This is a slap at your constituents. We did not elect you to sponsor minority status for gays, lesbians, and etc. We soundly defeated single sex marriage and yet you are trying to throw it back in our face. I have supported you because I thought your standards were higher than this. If you want to work with the liberals of the Portland area that is your privilege, but you will loose my support along with a lot of other good Christian people, here in central Oregon, who will not tolerate this assault on our moral standards.

Richard T. Virgin

Senator Westlund

We did not send you to Salem to ignore 57 percent of the voters, or to join the Portland Liderals and sponsor minority status for gays, lesbisns, bi-sexuals, and the transgendered. We did not send to Salem to create same sex civil unions. 57 percent of the voters in Oregon voted to preserve marriage as only between one man and one woman. Do not go against the will of the voters of Oregon.

We Oregonians have voted by the majority to preserve marriage as only between a man & a woman so please oppose SB 1000

Harold F. Remmy and Carla K. Remmy

SB 1000 is a bad policy, we voted to preserve marriage as only between one man and one woman, Dont spin your way around that

Don Irvine

Dear Senator Ben Westlund

I object to your sponsorship and support of SB 1000. You are creating special rights for gays. With passage of this bill, in any dispute involving housing, employment or personal association, members of this group will allege discrimination based on sexual orientation, even if not present. No group is entitled to special rights under law, that are denied to everyone. SB 1000 is misguided and unfair.

Duane Hill

SB 1000 is bad public policy, because is creates special rights for one group of citizens at the expense of others. The charge of discrimination has become a weapon used by special groups to bludgeon those with whom they disagree. SB 1000 codifies this advantage in law. Gays are no more the target of discrimination than obese people, people with abrasive personalities, or ugly people. Quit trying to eliminate the differences and divergences in humanity, because when you create special rights for one group you deny the rights of others.

Sherry Hill

Hello - I am one of your constituents who voted you into office and am writing to you to strongly encourage you to not support Senate bill 1000. As a Republican I voted you into office to represent the Republican views and values that this country was founded upon, not to support the Portland liberals you now seem to be following and supporting! Maybe you should come to the districts and counties that supported you for office and voted you into office to reconnect with what we voted you into office to stand for! SB 1000 is bad public policy and by supporting it you are ignoring 57 percent of the Oregonians that expressed their views to preserve marriage and the very nature of a man and a woman. Unless you are ready to end your career as a Republican Senator, I urge you to rethink your position and remember who you are there to represent! If I learn of your support for SB 1000 you can count on myself and my husband voting against you in the next election!

Kellyanne Litton

Writing to have you withdraw SB 1000 and leave things as they are. Why do we always have to be changing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

D. Buell

Dear Senator Westlund,

I am greatly disappointed that you have chosen to sponsor SB 1000, especially after Oregon voters passed by a 57 percent majority a measure that preserves marriage as only between one man and one woman. To now advocate for same-sex civil unions is merely to play a semantic game to get around the wishes of the state’s voters. I urge you to reconsider your vote for this bill.

Rod Morris

Senator Westlund,

I have been sent information about SB 1000 and have learned that this bill would change every Oregon law related to marriage and adds same-sex civil unions.

I voted with 57 percent of Oregon voters to preserve marriage as only between one man and one woman. And I am horrified to think that you would sponsor a bill that would try to force a change on the residents of Oregon that ignores the desire of the people.

Forcing our schools to teach our children, under the guise of “diversity education”, about gay (to be gay?) & lesbian ( to be lesbian?) And (have?) Bi-sexual relationships is not the responsibility of the Oregon school system but the responsibility of the parent/guardian to teach their child about gay, lesbian and bi-sexuality. The job of our schools is to teach academic subjects (reading, writing, arithmetic, science, technology) to our children so that they will be prepared to enjoy interesting, challenging, productive lives. Our schools need all the classroom time so that our Oregon children will not be left behind.

I am told the bill could require religious institutions and organizations to go against their faith. It could also cost Oregon private businesses thousands of dollars in health care and legal fees.

I urge you to oppose SB 1000.

Betty J. Hendricks
Republican Voter


Thursday, May 19, 2005
Join BRO at the State Capitol in Salem on Tuesday, May 31st for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on HB 3476, which is the Reciprocal Beneficiaries Bill being proposed by the backers of Measure 36 as a way to undermine our efforts to pass Senate Bill 1000 and create civil unions for same-sex couples in Oregon.

If the Oregon House doesn't hear from supporters of fairness and equality, same-sex couples and their families and people of faith from all over Oregon, they will hear from those who oppose even the most basic protections for GLBT Oregonians. We need hundreds of Oregonians to turn out and tell the House that there is no middle ground between right and wrong. Can we count on you?

We want to overwhelm the house with oral testimony and statements in opposition to this bill as a substitute for civil unions.

Event Date: 5/31/2005 - 6/1/2005
Event Time: 6PM- End of Hearing

A smoke screen in the Oregon House

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
‘Reciprocal benefits’ are a poor substitute for civil unions’ fairness

Anti-gay rights groups and conservative activists are ratcheting up the pressure on Sen. Ben Westlund, R-Tumalo, and a colleague who have proposed allowing civil unions for same-sex couples and outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Critical postcards flooded Central Oregon mailboxes this week courtesy of the Oregon Family Council, which was instrumental in the successful Measure 36 campaign that outlawed gay marriage.

Bend-based religious radio station KNLR-FM also is encouraging people to call Westlund and voice their opposition to Senate Bill 1000, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and establishes procedures for civil unions.

The phone at Westlund's Capitol office has been ringing since.
Meanwhile, the executive board of the Deschutes County Republican Central Committee will call Westlund to the carpet on Friday to explain his support of a measure that board members unanimously oppose.
"We're very disappointed in him," said Richard Morehead, the local party chairman.

Westlund is one of four sponsors of the bill. The others are Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany; Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland; and Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland.
"The mailing I think was a little over the top, but I'm happy to get the calls," Westlund said. "It's part of the job."

However, Westlund said he's disappointed about a flip-flop by leading supporters of Measure 36.
"In the campaign by the proponents of Measure 36, it was very clear that civil unions were OK," he said. "But now that 36 has passed, all of a sudden they're not."

He said he's looking forward to the meeting with Deschutes County Republicans, and said he'll tell them his position has remained constant: He supported banning gay marriage last fall, but has also maintained that same-sex couples need an equal alternative.

Prior to the passage of Measure 36, supporters of the measure assured the public that the goal was preventing gay marriage, and that same-sex couples should seek those benefits via a different avenue such as civil unions.

The rhetoric is different today.
The Web site of the Bend radio station says civil unions are gay marriage in disguise: "Just as skunk and polecat denote the same animal, civil unions and gay marriage are the same."

The station manager did not return calls Tuesday.
Postcards also have been sent to the district of Morse, who characterizes them as a bit of a hit piece.
"They haven't changed my perspective," Morse said of the postcards and phone calls. "I respect other people's beliefs, but I happen to believe differently, and I think a majority of Oregonians do too."

The anti-gay rhetoric of several calls helped cement his belief that the anti-discrimination bill is necessary, he said.

Bates and Brown had not heard of any postcards in their districts as of Tuesday. The responses are not all critical, however. Both Morse and Westland said Tuesday that the mailings are generating some calls in support of the legislation.

A Senate committee held hearings on the bill last week, but has not scheduled a vote.

Tim Nashif, director of the Oregon Family Council, said the postcards are being sent to people who would likely oppose civil unions. They will be mailed statewide, he said.

"Our interest is to kill this bill," he said. "We don't like it and think it is bad public policy, and you can't kill it just talking to only Westlund and Morse."

His organization has thrown its support behind competing legislation that would create "reciprocal benefits" that would allow any two adults in a household to secure certain rights, such as the ability to visit each other in the hospital.

Unlike civil unions, that alternative would not grant any legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Nashif said Westlund and Morse have attracted more scrutiny because most Republicans oppose gay marriage.

"Sixty-some percent of Westlund's district is Republican, and Republicans supported Measure 36 by a whopping 80 percent in his district," he said. "We're convinced the people of his district did not send him to Salem to focus all his time and energy on this issue."

Civil unions: A cease-fire

It’s time for Oregon’s culture war over gay rights to be winding down. Senate Bill 1000 is one reasonable way to bring about a cease-fire.

The main argument used to be over whether gay-rights legislation conferred special rights on those affected. That question has lost most of its meaning because in the private as well as public sectors, employment law has made discrimination against just about anybody illegal. So everybody has special rights.

The question of gay marriage also has been settled. There is no such thing. Oregon voters said so last fall. On Thursday the Oregon Supreme Court validated the voters’ decision, agreeing that Oregon law has provided all along exactly what last year’s ballot initiative

That leaves the question of civil unions. Whether anybody approves or not - and many don’t - society in general has long ago accepted that some people live in same-sex unions. The country has survived. It’s time to recognize that people in those unions have the same rights and responsibilities that adults in traditional households have.

There is no practical reason to object to legally recognizing civil unions. Not recognizing them won’t make them go away.

On the other hand, there’s a good argument for legal recognition. It solves practical problems from child support to inheritance rights and the responsibility of looking after a partner who is ill.

As a rule of thumb, the fewer laws we have, the better off we are. This principle argues against adding sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination law, especially considering how rare this kind of discrimination is these days. But also, because it is rare, expanding the law is unlikely to have a big impact on daily life in Oregon. If lawsuits ensue, they likely will be few and far between.

Sen. Frank Morse of Albany is cosponsoring the new gay-rights bill in the Legislature because he says it’s the right thing to do. It also sounds like the practical thing to do.

The bill would put a formal end to the Oregon war of words over gay rights. It would do so in a way that hurts no one and may help some people. There’s nothing wrong with that.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Last week was a tremendous success as we lobbied in favor of SB 1000, but as we work for fairness, we must also fight attempts to undermine equality for all Oregon families.

A few weeks ago we told you how the right's "Reciprocal Benefits" (HB 3476) are being used to block basic civil union protections for same-sex couples and their families.

House republicans have not yet announced a hearing date for HB 3476, but we expect that it will happen soon. We may only receive 48 hours notice of the hearing date and time, so NOW is the time to make arrangements with the boss, spouse, baby sitter, etc. Plan to fill up your car with friends and family and attend the hearing. Tell Oregon lawmakers that reciprocal benefits are unfair, inadequate and insulting.


Monday, May 09, 2005
Hundreds of supporters of fairness and equality turned out last Wednesday to testify before the Oregon Legislature in favor of Senate Bill 1000. It was an incredible hearing, lasting nearly eight hours (And for those of you who had to leave before the end it was 100% supporters who still filled the hearing room at the end of the night!

Those of you who were there know what we're talking about, but there are many of you who wanted to come but couldn’t. Here are a few highlights:
  • Over 350 people came from all over the state, from Pendleton, LaGrande, Medford, Newport, Lincoln City, and Bend (there were 17 people from Bend!). In addition, we turned in 300 written statements of support to the committee. If anyone had any doubt that Oregonians care about SB 1000, they don’t anymore! We outnumbered the opposition more 3 to 1, filling up the hearing room plus 4 overflow rooms.
  • Before the hearing, we rallied on the Capitol steps with supporters unified by pale blue shirts that read simply, "Support Senate Bill 1000!"
  • We brought Tom Little with us to meet with legislators before the hearing and to testify. Mr. Little is a former Vermont legislator, a Republican, who chaired the committee that drafted the first civil unions bill in the country. He was wonderful, offering his support to our cause and to our legislature.
  • We had more faith leaders stand up for this bill than stood against it! Kudos and thanks to Rev. Tara Wilkins from the Community of Welcoming Congregations for her fantastic work turning out these fair and moderate religious voices. Not only did Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon endorse the bill, but over 20 other pastors from all across the state said loud and clear that discrimination is immoral, and that in their view, divine love extends to all.
  • Our testimony was courageous, honest, and straight from the heart. Committee members were brought to tears by our stories, and by the people who waited several hours to speak for 2 minutes.
  • Supporters of SB 1000 spoke from many perspectives, as employees, parents, partners, pastors, and community members. The stories may have been heartbreaking at times, but our voice for fairness was clear and upbeat. Many people spoke of the hope that this bill gave them for their future and for the future of Oregon.

But the other thing you aren’t likely to hear in the media is some of the truly vile testimony in opposition to the bill. Senator Charles Starr told the committee that gay people are mentally ill and that gay "terrorists" had pressured doctors to treat being gay as "normal," while others called us depraved, immoral, and said that we spread diseases, act on perverse desires, and try to recruit others into “the lifestyle.” One of the main messages that we heard over and over is that civil unions go against the will of the voters as expressed in the vote on Measure 36. Never mind, of course, that throughout the campaign, these same people lied and said that once marriage was “secured,” same sex couples could always go to the legislature and ask for civil unions.

Fortunately, the committee appeared to see through all the misinformation and outright lies. Instead, Senators Brown, Shields, Ringo, and Bates asked pointed questions that exposed the hypocrisy time and again. And Senators Westlund, Gordly, and Morse aren’t even on the committee but attended the hearing to show their support.

What’s next? Well, the committee will be scheduling work sessions on this bill, and we will continue to push them to vote this out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate. And we expect that our opposition’s bill, a red herring called “Reciprocal Benefits,” will get a hearing very soon as well. Don’t change that channel! We’ll keep you posted, because we need you to turn out over and over just like we all did last night. This is how we are going to win, through our persistent, clear, and honest voice. Stick with us, because we are on the side of justice!

SB 1000: Coverage from the first Senate hearing

Thursday, May 05, 2005
Civil union hearing packs the house
By DON JEPSEN for the Mail Tribune
Click Here to Read Article

Gay-civil-union debate stirs emotions; Bill's religious and legal ramifications are aired Wednesday
TARA MCLAIN, Statesman Journal
Click Here to Read Article

Civil Unions Up For Hearing
By Colin Fogarty
Click Here to Read Article

Favor, fury on gay-rights legislation
Thursday, May 05, 2005 MICHELLE COLE
Click Here to Read Article

Civil unions hearing draws a crowd
05/05/2005 - By NIKI SULLIVAN / Associated Press
Click Here to Read Article

Tug of war intensifies on gay-marriage issue
By Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor
Click Here to Read Article

Basic Rights Oregon teams up with Onward Oregon

Take action through Onward Oregon. Basic Rights Oregon is proud to partner with Onward Oregon (It's like Move On, but for Oregon) to launch a an email lobbying campaign in support of Senate Bill 1000. In all, this campain will reach at least 20,000 Oregonians. You can help spread the word. Visit Onward Oregon to send your letter to targeted lawmakers:


Then, urge friends and family to participate too.

Yesterday's Civil Unions Hearing Draws a Crowd

Liz Cahill took a personal day from her teaching job last year to travel to Multnomah County and marry Diane Groff, the woman she said she loves more than life itself.

Their marriage license since voided by the Oregon Supreme Court, the Milton-Freewater couple took another personal day Wednesday to ask a Senate panel to pass a civil unions and anti-discrimination bill, so that they could again have a legally recognized relationship.

"Community members have visited and written letters to our administration demanding we be fired because we are lesbians," Cahill told the Senate Rules Committee. "The fact that there is no legal recognition of our relationship emboldens this vocal part of the majority population."

Cahill and Groff were joined by hundreds of others at the state Capitol for sometimes emotional testimony on Gov. Ted Kulongoski's bill to create civil unions for same sex couples and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Democratic governor's bill has bipartisan support in the Senate, but there is resistance to the idea in the Republican-controlled House.

Supporters say Senate Bill 1000 is a fair way of providing gays and lesbians the same rights as anyone else. Opponents, however, say it is unnecessary and trumps the will of voters who approved Measure 36 last fall. The measure revised Oregon's Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Sen. Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro, said the bill would make employers susceptible to lawsuits if they fired a homosexual, even if they didn't know the employee's sexual identity.

Supporters of the bill — gathered in one of three overflow rooms — scoffed and shook their heads at Starr's comments. Throughout the evening's testimony, onlookers gathered around spare televisions and could be heard cheering, booing or clapping in response to different witnesses.

Starr said homosexuality was a lifestyle choice that should not be recognized by the law.

"You would do a very large disservice to our state and to our people in the passage of Senate Bill 1000," Starr said.

Herb Grey, a Beaverton lawyer, said the bill would not prevent discrimination against gays, but would instead give them special rights. [Don't they mean equal rights?]

"It will inevitably come at the price of creating special rights for a small minority while institutionalizing discrimination against people and institutions of faith," Grey said. He added that the anti-discrimination aspect of the bill would also cause a flood of litigation and would require public education against discriminating gays and lesbians.

Roey Thorpe of Basic Rights Oregon disagreed, contending that Oregonians voted for Measure 36 thinking that civil unions were a possibility.

"Those who don't support discrimination but who weren't ready to support same-sex marriage were made to believe that they could vote yes and not cause significant harm," Thorpe said.

The governor's wife, Mary Oberst, made her first appearance before lawmakers, testifying in favor of the bill.

"In effect, without Senate Bill 1000, we are telling these citizens that they can give but not receive," she said. "They can give Oregon their tax dollars, they can give Oregon their votes ... but they cannot depend on receiving equal treatment."

The gay marriage debate in Oregon began just over a year ago, when Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Soon after, the county was ordered to stop, but not before 3,000 marriage licenses had been granted.

Voters passed Measure 36 in the fall and, in April, the Oregon Supreme Court threw out the Multnomah County marriage licenses, saying it was not within the county's rights to issue them.

Kulongoski's bill would grant same-sex couples the same rights under civil unions that married couples get through marriage.

In response to civil unions, some Republicans have proposed a "reciprocal benefits" bill, which would grant a select list of rights — like hospital visitation — to any two adults who apply for them, including siblings and roommates.

Bad treatment of gays isn't a holocaust; however ...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Gay Holocaust?

That was the subject line of an e-mail I received last week from "Chris," a lawyer in a red state. He wanted to know if anybody else sees a similarity between the beginning of the Holocaust — the nibbling away of rights and personhood that ultimately led to the attempted extermination of a people — and what is happening to gay people in American right now.

Which is not to say the lawyer is off base. I've long felt the current spate of laws — you can't do this because you're gay, can't have that because you're lesbian — bears a discomfitting resemblance to Germany in the 1930s.

Both spring from a mindset that says a given people is so loathsome, so offensive to our sensibilities, that we are obliged to place them outside the circle of normal human compassion. We don't have to hear their cries, don't have to respect their humanity, don't have to revere their tears, because they are less than we — and at the same time are responsible for everything that scares or threatens us.

Whatever it is, it's all their fault. Blame them, whoever "them" may be.

My problem is that I see human dignity as all of a piece. I don't know how to want it for me and mine but not for them and theirs. As Martin Luther King put it, we are caught in a network of mutuality. As Dick Cheney put it, freedom means freedom for everybody. As Cain put it, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

I always considered that the signature lesson of the Holocaust; always felt that in the largest sense it was not about Jews and Aryans but about humanity and inhumanity. The Holocaust was, after all, only hatred carried to its logical extreme, the predictable outcome of an environment where we countenance taking rights from "them," heaping scorn on "them," making scapegoats of "them."

And who can deny that this describes the plight of gay Americans in 2005? Or that demagogic lawmakers are using this environment to further their own ambitions?

There used to be an expression in Southern politics. The candidate who lost because he had been found insufficiently draconian on racial issues was said to have been "out-niggered." These days, the worry seems to be that one might be "out-homoed." Consider, for instance, a law under consideration in Alabama to ban books with gay characters from public-school libraries.

Books. With gay characters.

It prompted a group of gay Alabamans to rise before a legislative committee and ask a pregnant question.

Why do you hate us?

And it strikes me that the same thing could have been asked by an Armenian in 1915, by a Bosnian Muslim in 1992, by a Rwandan in 1994 and, yes, by a Jew in 1936.

We just don't learn.

Ours is a stable and prosperous democracy, so no, I don't predict train cars full of gays rolling toward death factories. Still, the mindset of aggrieved righteousness that allowed those trains to roll is not dissimilar from that which would ban gay people from public-school libraries.

Maybe your instinct is to find the comparison unthinkable. Nobody is interning gays, nobody mass-murdering them.

You're right. But ask yourself: How many would if they could?

Knight Ridder Newspapers