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HUNDREDS TESTIFY IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL 1000

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!
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