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Karen Minnis: A Flagrant Abuse of Power.

House Leadership feels public pressure on SB 1000 and resorts to extreme measures in an effort to prevent it from passing

Just one day after more than 800 Oregonians stood on the steps of the State Capitol and two weeks of thousands and thousands of phone calls to Speaker of the House Karen Minnis demanding a vote on Senate Bill 1000, the Speaker Minnis saw the writing on the wall: If SB 1000 came to a vote in the House, it would pass.

Yesterday, in a cynical effort to prevent fair-minded legislators in the House from even having the chance to debate the bill or vote, Speaker Minnis resorted to a series of extreme political ploys designed to deny same-sex couples and their families security and certainty under the law and to ensure that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains legal in the state of Oregon.

In politics, its called the "Gut and Stuff." Here's what happened: House Speaker Karen Minnis referred SB 1000 to the House Committee on State and Federal Affairs on Thursday. Committee Chair Wayne Krieger then, with less than an hour's public notice, convened an immediate work session on the SB 1000 and banned the public, advocates, and legislators from testifying on the bill.

Over Democrats' objections, Republican members of the committee gutted the bill -- deleting every single word of Senate Bill 1000 and putting in its place "reciprocal benefits."

Then, in a move that indicated the Speaker's true motivations, the bill was referred to the House Budget Committee without discussion or debate. "Policy" bills like SB 1000 don't belong in a budget committee, but the bill was placed there in order to prevent a majority of legislators in the House from using procedural methods to go around the Speaker and bring the bill to a vote. Such procedural options are prohibited for bills in the Budget Committee.

While it was always clear that the Speaker would work hard to defeat Senate Bill 1000, her actions today are an outrageous and egregious abuse of power.

Lawmakers decried the Speaker's maneuvers, "It thwarts the process of representative democracy to try to deny all 90 legislators the ability to consider the most significant civil rights legislation that has come to this building in 20 years," said Sen. Ben Westlund, R-Bend, sponsor of Senate Bill 1000.

House Democratic Caucus Leader Jeff Merkley had similar criticisms, "The Speaker's maneuvers are fundamentally undemocratic," charged Merkley. "Major civil rights legislation should rise above partisan politics. The Speaker should not sweep this matter under a rug. Every House member should study the issue, search his or her heart, and consult with constituents. Every House member should be willing to debate and vote on this issue on the floor of the House. All Oregonians deserve to know where their Representatives stand on this important issue."

Once again, the Speaker of the House wants us to believe that she--and she alone--will have the final word on civil unions and non-discrimination this session. She wants us to believe that this fight is over, but we won't give up.

Already this afternoon, allies in the legislature restated their commitment to bringing these issues to a vote in the Oregon House. We always knew that we would face challenges in the House, but just like those who want block SB 1000, we are also prepared to pull out all the stops to pass civil unions and anti-discrimination legislation now! We still have the will and we believe there is still a way!

Call Speaker Minnis!
Tell her she should be ashamed of her flagrant disregard for fair democracy!

Call your Representative!
Urge your lawmaker to take a stand against Speaker Minnis' abuse of power and bring nondiscrimination and civil unions to a floor vote in the House.
Click here to call now!
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