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Measure 36: It's Back To Court in Legal Challenge

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Basic Rights Oregon heads back to court on Monday, September 26 to ask Oregon courts to find Measure 36, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by Oregon voters on November 2, 2004, unconstitutional. Monday, attorneys will present oral arguments in Marion County Circuit Court, the first hearing in litigation which is expected to last at least two years and be decided ultimately at the Oregon Supreme Court.

“The Oregon Constitution belongs to all Oregonians—including same-sex couples and their families,” said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe. “Using the Constitution to treat some Oregonians differently violates every Oregon tradition of fairness and is an insult to the spirit of the Oregon Constitution, which was created to establish justice, maintain order and perpetuate liberty and prevent a majority from deciding or diminishing the basic rights of a minority.”

The legal challenge, originally filed on Monday, January 31 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.

“This legal challenge is about much more than the issue of same-sex marriage or Measure 36,” stated Attorney Mark Johnson of Johnson Renshaw & Lechman-Su PC, one of the attorneys handling the challenge. “It’s about defending the Oregon Constitution, maintaining the integrity of the initiative process and guaranteeing basic fairness for all Oregonians.”

More than 20 plaintiffs from across the state of Oregon are represented on the case, including same-sex couples married in Multnomah County in 2004; same-sex couples married in Canada prior to the passage of Measure 36; same-sex couples who are not yet married, but want to reserve the right to marry in the future; and clergy who perform or want to perform marriages for same-sex couples according to the tenets of their faith.

The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Beth A. Allen of Lane Powell PC and Mark Johnson of Johnson Renshaw & Lechman-Su PC.

For all the information regarding this case, please click here.

Equality California Needs Oregon's Help

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
In Oregon we are part of a collective, nationwide struggle for GLBT equality. Last year, during the No on 36 campaign, many of our neighbors in California contributed to our campaign when we needed it most. Now it is our turn to help support the movement in California. Check out this ad, sponsored by Equality California, which urges the Governor to sign California's Marriage Equality Act. Help California raise the money to put it on the air across the State. Their goal is to raise $100,000 in 24 hours.

Together we can make a difference in this fight. Click here to watch the ad. Click here to donate to Equality California.

STUDIO BRO: Portland's Infamous Nightspot & Party of The Year For One Night Only

Like the short, excessive life of the notorious Studio 54, Studio B-R-O will be the hottest spot in town for one night only this Saturday! But, unlike the bouncers at Studio 54, we'll let you in the door. To get on the guest list, all you need to do is purchase your passes now!

It's more than just dinner --it's disco! In the true disco tradition, we've taken this year's party over the top with fabulous food, fashion and outrageous fun.

We'll honor Ramon Ramirez of PCUN (Oregon's farmworkers Union and largest and most influential latino organization) with a BRO Fighting Spirit Award and Heroes of the 2005 Legislative Session:
  • Legislative Sponsors of Senate Bill 1000 Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown and Senators Ben Westlund, Frank Morse and Alan Bates
  • Allies in the Oregon House, including House Democratic Caucus Leader Jeff Merkley and Represenatives Diane Rosenbaum, Mary Nolan and Debi Farr
  • The Community of Welcoming Congregations
  • Oregon PFLAG
  • Salem Basic Rights Action Team
  • Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and First Lady Mary Oberst.

    We'll be entertained by the far-out sounds of the Dahoo Chorus and Poison Waters!

    And be prepared with your checkbook or credit card...you'll have the chance to walk away with any number of hip auction items including:

  • A classic Vespa scooter!
  • A Portland vacation package featuring all that the city has to offer: fine dining, entertainment, shopping and luxurious overnight accommodations.
  • An opportunity to "Test Drive your Dream Job" as a wine maker, TV producer, race team pit crew member, celebrity make-up artist, whitewater rafting outfitter, brew master, radio DJ and much more through Vocation Vacations.
  • Enjoy Northwest sports in style with a luxurious Nike golf package and some of the best seats in the house to see the Seattle Seahawks, Portland Trailblazers and more.
  • Vegas Baby! Stay at the Paris Hotel and see "We Will Rock You" and the Broadway Hit "Mama Mia" in which you'll hear all of the hits from the oh-so-fabulous ABBA.
  • A six-day Caribbean adventure including an ocean front stay in a private condo with room for six on the white sandy beaches of Puerto Adventuras, Mexico, big game fishing or an interactive dolphin experience and more!
  • A one-week Hawaiian island experience including roundtrip airfare for two and a stay in a Hawaiian home with magnificent Pacific views and a private pool.
  • Your chance to own four pieces of collectible Lonesomeville pottery. Inspired by the beautiful linens of the 1930's and 40's, the new Dogwood series is designed to reflect the beauties of Spring.
  • BREAKING: US House Passes New Federal Hate Crime Law

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005
    Today, a majority of members of the United States House of Representatives voted by a vote of 223-199, including 30 Republicans, to pass a federal hate crime law that would include all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The provisions of HR2662, the first ever piece of major trans-inclusive legislation was attached as an amendment to the Child Safety Act.

    According to NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, “At least one chamber of Congress has finally made a statement that it not acceptable to hurt or kill transgender people because of who we are. This is a pivotal vote for transgender people who have been working diligently for years to educate Congress about transgender people and our lives.”

    Passage of the underlying bill (HR3132) The Child Safety Act is expected momentarily.

    Massachusetts Legislature rejects proposed amendment banning gay marriage

    BOSTON --A year after the nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex marriages began taking place, the Massachusetts Legislature on Wednesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to ban gay marriage but legalize civil unions.

    It was the second time the Legislature had confronted the measure, which was designed to be put before voters on a statewide ballot in 2006. Under state law, lawmakers were required to approve the measure in two consecutive sessions before it could move forward.

    After less than two hours of debate, a joint session of the House and Senate voted 157-39 against the measure.

    It was a striking departure from a year earlier when hundreds of protesters converged on Beacon Hill over the hot-button issue, legislators were torn over it and spent long hours debating the matter, and thousands of same-sex couples began a new era of getting married.

    This year, the crowds were tamer and some legislators who had initially supported the proposed change to the state constitution said they no longer felt right about denying the rights of marriage to same-sex couples.

    "Gay marriage has begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth, with the exception of those who can now marry," said state Sen. Brian Lees, an East Longmeadow Republican who had been a co-sponsor of the amendment. "This amendment which was an appropriate measure or compromise a year ago, is no longer, I feel, a compromise today."

    The state's highest court ruled in November 2003 that same-sex couples had a right under the state constitution to marry. The first weddings began taking place on May 17, 2004 -- two months after lawmakers began the multistep process of seeking to change the constitution to reverse the court's ruling.

    In the year-plus since the weddings began taking place, more than 6,100 couples had married.

    Still, the battle is far from over.

    Now, lawmakers are girding for a battle over a more-restrictive proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage but not allow for civil unions. The earliest that initiative could end up on the ballot is 2008.

    "The union of two women and two men can never consummate a marriage. It's physically impossible. We can't get around that. You can be a family, absolutely. You can be loving, and I respect that absolutely. But you're not married," said Rep. Phil Travis, D-Rehoboth. "The other 49 states are right and we are wrong."

    In March 2004, the Legislature had voted 105-92 in favor of the measure, which would have banned same-sex marriages but introduced Vermont-style civil unions. But for the proposed amendment to wind up on a state ballot for voters to weigh in, lawmakers in two consecutive sessions needed to approve an identical proposal.

    But the political landscape has changed.

    Some lawmakers say they no longer oppose gay marriage after observing a year of weddings in the state. Others say they couldn't stomach the dilemma that would come with creating two classes of gay and lesbians: one group with full marriage rights, and one without.

    But the remaining proposed amendment -- driven by a citizen petition that requires support from fewer lawmakers to make its way onto a statewide ballot in 2008 -- also was a factor.

    Some reluctant supporters of the first proposed amendment -- including Gov. Mitt Romney -- have abandoned it in favor of the stricter measure.

    Supporters of the new plan must gather about 65,000 signatures, then submit it to the Legislature for two votes in the constitutional convention before it would go to voters in 2008.

    Because citizens must go out and collect signatures first, the legislative bar is far lower: The proposed amendment needs the support of only 50 lawmakers -- 25 percent of the House and Senate -- in two constitutional conventions for it to be put to a vote.

    The issue of same-sex marriage was a hot button in 2004, particularly during elections across the country.

    Within a year, 11 states pushed through constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, joining six others that had done so earlier.

    In addition, the Connecticut Legislature approved civil unions in April, joining Vermont in creating the designation that creates the same legal rights as marriage without calling it such. Then, earlier this month, California lawmakers passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto it.

    Although more than 6,100 same-sex couples were married in Massachusetts, the state barred out-of-state couples from getting married here, citing a 1913 law that prohibits couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their union would be illegal in their home states. A lawsuit challenging the legality of that law is pending before the SJC

    By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer | September 14, 2005

    Basic Rights Oregon Lauds Passage of California Equal Marriage Legislation

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005
    (Portland) ''Basic Rights Oregon applauds the California Legislature's bold move to end the discrimination faced every day by same-sex couples and their families in California.'' said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe following a vote by the California Legislature yesterday, making it the first state in the nation to pass legislation that would legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

    The bill now moves to the desk of Governor Schwarzenegger who has until October 6, 2005, to sign or veto the bill or let the law into effect without his signature.

    ''When governments and elected officials across the country have turned their backs on GLBT citizens, this legislature didn't wait for a court order to act or shelve the debate for another day. Instead, it took seriously its moral duty to ensure equality and fairness for all its citizens--not tomorrow, not another year, but today.

    ''The triumph of fairness over fear, people over politics and equality over injustice in California would not have been possible without the determined, passionate and aggressive activism of Equality California, which sponsored and championed the bill on its path to victory,'' Thorpe continued.

    California is now the first and only state in the nation where the legislature has voted to end marriage discrimination. Presently, Massachusetts is the only state to grant civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the result of a decision by the state's highest court. Vermont and Connecticut provide civil unions for same-sex couples, and California and New Jersey presently offer domestic partnerships.

    Knowing the pain and outrage caused when one government official overides the will of the majority to preserve discrmination, Basic Rights Oregon joins other fairminded organizations across the country calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to follow a more righteous path and allow this legislation to become law.

    After a historic vote in the Oregon Senate approving a civil unions and statewide antidiscrimination bill championed by Basic Rights Oregon and a bipartisan group of Oregon Senators, the Oregon Legislature failed in 2005 to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Oregonians and their families when the Speaker of the House alone blocked the bill from becoming the law.

    BRO Equality PAC Event Masu This Evening 7pm

    Can ONE person really overrule the will of the Senate, the Governor, the House and the Majority of Oregonians? Speaker of the House Karen Minnis thinks so. This legislative session, she alone stopped democracy in its tracks and blocked SB 1000 from becoming the law. Let’s make sure she regrets defending discrimination when she runs for reelection in 2006.

    The work of the Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC, which works to elect openly GLBT candidates and those who will advocate for GLBT rights to elected office, has never been more important in our struggle for full equality. Help us kick off our 2006 Candidate Campaign when we’ll “Stick it to Minnis” and make sure that fairminded officials, who WILL vote the right way and won’t stand in the way of democracy, are elected statewide.

    Wednesday, September 7th, 7PM
    @ Masu 406 SW 13th Ave. in Portland

    (Nearest cross street Stark, across from Ringler’s and upstairs from American Apparel)

    Tickets: $20 @ door, includes appetizers. No-host bar available.

    Thank you to our fantastic sponsors: Mortgage Monkey, Eyes on Broadway, Masu Sushi.

    If there was one thing we were reminded of this legislative session, it was this: even the best legislation in the world won’t pass all by itself. Without the right people in elected office at the right time to cast the right votes, we can’t put an end to discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in Oregon.

    A fundraiser for the Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC.