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Republicans. The Governors Race. The Problem.

Oregon: Stop pretending that voters have spoken on civil unions

As ballots are marked in the Oregon Gubernatorial races in the coming days, pro-GLBT voters have a lot to think about-particularly if they are Republican.

The Oregonian Editorial board raised the issue today on its opinion page today, writing:

"At a recent debate, candidates Kevin Mannix, Ron Saxton and Jason Atkinson sounded strangely similar on this issue, as if they had just stepped out of an echo chamber or were replaying an old script. Had they been governor, all three said firmly that they wouldn't have signed a bill to create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

The trio echoed not only each other, but also those Oregon House Republicans who squashed the chance to debate civil unions last year, saying voters had already disposed of this issue."

Why does this matter so much? Because in the next legislative session we will introduce and are likely to pass a civil unions bill in both chambers of the legislature. Getting that far only to be vetoed by an anti-gay Republican in the Governor's seat would be a terrible blow.

The major Republican candidates are counting on short memories and gullibility from voters.

More from the Oregonian:

"In enticing support for Measure 36, in fact, backers went out of their way to reassure voters, again and again, that the ban wouldn't apply to civil unions or other options to protect gay and lesbian families.

After winning approval of Measure 36, however, backers began invoking a winner-take-all interpretation of the new law. They began saying the "spirit" of the measure somehow extended to banning civil unions, too."

And here's where our 'long-term' memory comes in.

We all undoubtedly remember Measure 36. How could we forget? It took the most sacred document in Oregon law and wrote outright discrimination into it. Then, last legislative session, SB1000 was introduced. SB1000 included civil unions legislation to give same-sex couples and their families the state protection that all committed couples and families needed and deserved.

(Just to be clear here: from our perspective civil unions are not a suitable "middle path" as the Oregonian claims. They are, in fact, a second class status, but they are also a huge step in the right direction to full marriage equality, and would afford Oregon same-sex couples and their families the protection so badly needed now.)

The Oregonian is dead-on about the double-talk on the part of the Oregon Family Council, backers of Measure 36, Republican Gubernatorial Candidates and Republican leadership.

Back in November 2004 when Constitutional Amendment 36 was passed, Tim Nashif, Director of the "Oregon Family Council" which brought Measure 36 to the ballot, said that Measure 36 had nothing to do with civil unions. Here's what they said then:

"Oregon's measure [36] was written specifically not to address civil unions."
- Tim Nashif, Oregon Family Council Director and an organizer of the Measure 36 campaign Bend Bulletin. 11/6/2004

The tune changed quickly when civil unions were actually on the table and in the hands of the Oregon Legislature:

"Please understand there is no greater threat to marriage right now than civil unions."
- Oregon Family Council Communications Director Nick Graham In a letter to supporters 4/26/05

"SB 1000 takes everything that marriage is and calls it civil unions."
- Tim Nashif, Oregon Family Council Director and an organizer of the Measure 36 campaign The Statesman Journal 4/17/2005

The Oregonian says:
Gubernatorial candidates are expected to have some grasp, however dim, of what Oregonians think. Even if candidates cannot intuit or channel the majority's view with any precision, it's fair for them to try, or to make a wild guess.

What's not fair is to make a wild guess while pretending, sanctimoniously, to be in direct communication with the heart and mind of Oregon. But that pretty much sums up the approach of the three Republican candidates for governor on civil unions.

Arguing about civil unions, or merely to say the words, apparently is, as Mannix put it during the debate, "disrespectful to our voters."

Nonsense. What's disrespectful is to assume you know what voters would do, even though they haven't done it or even had a chance to do it."

(Read the entire article here.)

Based on what the Oregonian had to say, it appears that the current Republican candidates for Governor aren't letting a little ethical inconsistency get in their way. But, just to be fair, a BRO supporter called all the offices of the Republican candidates yesterday and, to no surprise, Mannix, Atkinson and Saxton all oppose civil unions.

And, each campaign was clear that its candidate would also veto any omnibus civil rights bill, like SB 1000 (which would have created civil unions and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity statewide) or stand alone bills containing either component part.

Let's not be duped. If the current double-talk provides any clue about the future, we are likely to see further revisions in position after the primary when the nominee will then need to pander to middle-of-the-road voters.

That's why, as pro-GLBT Republican voters mark their ballots in the May Republican primary, history is critical-both the history of opposition to GLBT equality in Oregon and candidates aligned with it AND the opportunity to make-or break-history for GLBT Oregonians through this election and in the next legislative session.

Visit VoteEquality.com for all of our legislative, statewide and local endorsements/green lights.


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By Blogger Asher Abrams, at May 03, 2006 2:26 PM

That's why I'm not voting in the Republican primary. Come the general election, I'll cast my vote for the one candidate I really like - Ben Westlund.

(And if he doesn't make the ballot, I'll write him in.)    

By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 03, 2006 2:33 PM

I too like Ben - but viability is very important to me. If we end up with a Republican as our Governor, we're screwed. Forget civil unions, forget a statewide anti-discrimination policy. Forget it all. The legislation will simply be vetoed by a Republican in the governor's office.

I don't want to be a pessimist BUT Ben might just be the Nader this year.

These civil rights issues have waited way too long. It's been over 30 years. Lets get it together and make progress.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 03, 2006 9:21 PM

Yeah and Ben Westlund is also anti-choice. That doesn't fly with me. His website may say that he got a 100% from NARAL last session, but don't let that fool you. He got that because they never had to make a vote on the floor regarding a woman's right to choose.

He supports parental notification and supports "fetal homicde" - both things that would score Ben a big fat 0%.

I also just noticed that Ben took Women's Health off of his website. Obviousl.y his views weren't polling well.    

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