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Cross into the 'Couv Today in Support of Marriage Equality

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Supporters of marriage equality for same-sex couples will gather in Vancouver this afternoon to mark the Washington Supreme Court Decision upholding discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. The gathering will begin at 3 PM, at Esther Short Park, West Columbia at 8th St. in Downtown Vancouver.

We urge those in the Vancouver area to attend in support of equality and fairness under the law for same-sex couples and their families. In addition, we ask that those of you who are in Portland to cross the river to show your solidarity with our neighbors to the north in our collective struggle for equality.

For more details about the event, or to volunteer, contact Micheil MacCutcheon at 503-330-5438 or macmicheil@yahoo.com or Deb Needham at 503-351-7275 or debneedham@hotmail.com.

For more information, visit www.equalrightswashington.org

Washington Court Upholds Discrimination. A Statement from Basic Rights Oregon

Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest and most influential gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, denounced a Washington State Supreme Court decision today on same-sex marriage that upheld discrimination against same-sex couples and their families in the state of Washington. In a splintered 5-4 decision, Washington's highest court held that the state constitution does not require extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples.

Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the state's marriage law was enacted to ''promote procreation and to encourage stable families.''

She continued, ''The legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers the State's legitimate interests in procreation and the well-being of children.''

Same-sex couples, the opinion said, failed to prove that they had a fundamental right to marry, or that the state's 1998 ''Defense of Marriage Act'' was unconstitutional.

Statement from Frank Dixon, Basic Rights Oregon Interim Executive Director:

''Today's decision from the Washington Supreme Court is disappointing, not just for our neighbors to the north, but for all Americans who care about fundamental fairness and equality under the law.

In refusing to recognize that the constitution is a guarantee of equality for all -- even when it is unpopular -- the Court turned its back on this promise. What's worse is that, like the recent New York Court of Appeals decision, the majority opinion in this case did not rely on the law, but on personal ideology and tired myths about GLBT people and same-sex parenting. The reliance on these myths is even more upsetting considering that every reliable medical and social science authority on the welfare of children and families has shown them to be untrue.

This decision is yet another reminder that same-sex couples and their families in Oregon and across the country continue to experience discrimination that affects medical decision-making, end-of-life issues, parenting and more. Here in Oregon we continue to call on Oregon Courts and the Oregon Legislature to consider this issue carefully and stand on the side of justice and fairness under the law for all of our citizens.

While we are saddened today by the Washington decision, we also know that this set-back is but one marker in a long struggle for equality. Just as in Washington and across the country, Basic Rights Oregon will continue to fight on every front until the full equality we seek is achieved.''

Background: Today's ruling was the result of an appeal -- supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Women's Law Center and Lambda Legal -- from two lawsuits, one in King County and one in Thurston County, filed by 19 same-sex couples who sued for the right to wed.

Superior Court judges in King and Thurston counties struck down the law banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional in 2004.

The opinion decides the fate of the state's 1998 statutory ''Defense of Marriage Act'', which banned same-sex marriage. Washington does not have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

To read the court's opinion in the case, click here


BREAKING: Washington Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban

This morning, the Washington Supreme Court issued a decision in Andersen v. King County, a consolidated case regarding Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Court’s lead opinion was authored by Justice Barbara Madsen, holding the Washington "Defense of Marriage Act" does not violate the Washington State Constitution. This decision overturns trial court decisions in King and Thurston Superior Courts in this case.

Signing Justice Madsen’s opinion are Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson. Two members of the Court, Justices James M. Johnson and Richard B. Sanders agreed with the majority in result only, using a separate legal rationale in a concurring opinion authored by Justice James M. Johnson. Chief Justice Gerry Alexander also issued a separate concurrence in this case.

The Court had three dissenting opinions, one authored by Justice Mary E. Fairhurst which was signed by Justices Bobbe J. Bridge, Tom Chambers and Susan J. Owens. Justices Bridge and Chambers also issued separate dissents in this case.

The Court’s opinion including concurrences and dissents is available online at www.courts.wa.gov along with links to the RealAudio of the oral argument.

More to come...

Washington Supreme Court to announce same-sex marriage decision

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The state Supreme Court is set to announce tomorrow whether Washington will become the second state to let same-sex couples marry -- a controversial issue that's left people on both sides waiting more than a year for an answer.

In a case that some have called the court's most significant in years, justices could decide Washington's law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman is unconstitutional, opening the door for same-sex couples to tie the knot.

A notice of the pending decision was posted today on the court's Web site.

Justices could also uphold the law, preventing same-sex couples from marrying, or strike it down while leaving it up to state lawmakers to decide what to do.

Either way, attorneys have been anxiously speculating on what the delay might mean. Some have wondered if justices were waiting until after the election, when three justices are running to keep their seats on the high bench, though that apparently isn't the case.

Some think the case prompted more than a couple justices to put their opinions to paper and circulate them through the justices' chambers, a process that takes back-and-forth debate, revisions and time.

It could also lead to a number of concurring and dissenting opinions.

"There could well be three or four or five," attorney Phil Talmadge, a former Supreme Court justice, guessed recently.

Hugh Spitzer, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Washington and filed a written argument supporting the same-sex couples, said he thinks justices had probably been passing around several opinions for quite a while.

The state's highest court heard the case on March 8, 2005. Attorneys gave technical, constitutional arguments inside the Temple of Justice as thousands of people rallied under clear skies outside.
Many covered the lawn of the capitol with signs that read, Marriage: one man, one woman. Others rallied for diversity and gay rights.

In court and in writing, attorneys for the state and King County -- as well as a group of state lawmakers and religious leaders opposing same-sex marriage -- argued that the question of who should be allowed to marry should be left to state lawmakers.

They said lawmakers had a rational reason for limiting marriage to people of the opposite sex: Only those couples are biologically capable of having children, and keeping them together is generally best for those children.

But attorneys for the same-sex couples -- whose case was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Women's Law Center and Lambda Legal -- say the law discriminates against loving couples.

They argued that keeping same-sex couples from marrying makes it more difficult for them to raise their children, though at the same time it accomplishes nothing for the kids who are being raised by a mother and a father.

The case was an appeal from two lawsuits, one in King County and one in Thurston County, filed by 19 same-sex couples raising the momentous social question of who can marry.

Justices must decide the fate of state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act. The law, passed by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers over Gov. Gary Locke's veto, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Superior Court judges in both counties struck down the law banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional in 2004.

King County Judge William Downing ruled that there's no logical way that banning same-sex marriage encourages procreation -- a similar position taken by courts in Massachusetts, the only state that now allows same-sex couples to marry.

Downing said the couples had a fundamental right to wed, and Thurston County Judge Richard Hicks reached the same conclusion.

More than 40 states have a law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and roughly 20 have written that definition into their constitution.

But challenges are pending in a number of states.

Earlier this month, New York's highest court ruled that its law preventing gay couples from marrying did not violate the state constitution - a blow to same-sex couples, who had high hopes that the case would go their way.

via SeattlePI.com

An Open Letter to the GLBT From Governor Ted Kulongoski

Dear Friends:

I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Basic Rights Equality PAC and the Human Rights Campaign in the race for Oregon's Governor and am proud to be a partner with Basic Rights Oregon and HRC in this important struggle for equality in our state. For more than thirty years in public service, I have stood in solidarity with the GLBT community in Oregon and I pledge to continue to use my power as Governor to make equality the law of the land here in Oregon.

I am committed to full legal equality and protection from discrimination for all of our citizens. Discrimination or unfair treatment of any type relegates us to something less than our best and I am deeply concerned that current Oregon law fails to provide this basic right of protection against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Oregonians.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not only morally wrong, but it is shortsighted and legally unsustainable. I first became active on this issue in the 1970s when as a State Legislator I introduced the first anti-discrimination legislation to the Oregon Legislature.

As Oregon’s Attorney General, I filed an amicus brief on Oregon's behalf urging that Colorado's Amendment Two, which withdrew all legal protection (including that of antidiscrimination laws for employment and public accommodation) for Colorado citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation, was unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court struck down Colorado's amendment, and Oregon's brief was credited with playing a key role in the Court's decision.

As Governor I have made sure that my office door is always open to the GLBT community, appointing a staff dedicated to GLBT policy issues and introducing a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill during the 2003 legislative session. Then in the 2005 session, I partnered in a bipartisan effort to introduce Senate Bill 1000. Working together, we succeeded in passing this historic antidiscrimination and civil unions bill in the Senate, but were stymied by the opposition of the Republican-led House, where Senate Bill 1000 wasn’t even allowed a debate or vote on the House floor.

The bill may have died last session, but my commitment to outlaw discrimination in all forms in Oregon has not. I am as committed – if not more – as I was thirty years ago to see that Oregon is a state that does more than give lip service to its core values. Next session, I will work to see that antidiscrimination and civil unions legislation receive a vote on the floor of both legislative chambers – and that the State Legislature does not recess until every legislator has cast a vote on this important issue.

But we can’t wait for the legislative session to continue the work necessary to achieve true equality. This year I created the Governor's Taskforce on Equality in Oregon through Executive Order to review state statutes and develop a list of recommendations for changes necessary in state law to ensure Oregon affords the same privileges, protections and responsibilities to all Oregonians regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. I have asked for the Taskforce to develop a report, which will include comment from public hearings statewide, so I can introduce necessary changes to state law in the 2007 session.

Aside from legislation, there are some changes that need to be made in the rules that govern how state agencies do business to ensure that the state is doing everything it can to ensure equal treatment of Oregonians. For those, I have directed state agencies to work with the Oregon Department of Justice to identify the rules that can be amended within existing statutory authority so we can afford the same rights, privileges and protections to all Oregonians. My office is working closely with Basic Rights Oregon on this effort, and I expect agencies to begin the process of amending rules this year.

Discrimination is not an Oregon value. Oregonians do not believe in their hearts that some citizens should be treated as second-class. We are Oregonians first and we all benefit when we respect and support one another’s right to live to our full potential. We are a better state when all of our citizens are afforded the same rights, protections and opportunities. That’s why I opposed Measure 36 and advocated for SB1000 and why I am committed to breaking the barriers that are keeping some of our citizens from enjoying the protections and freedoms of which they are entitled.

I hold these truths deep in my heart and I will not rest until Oregon is a place where all people are equal under the law and free to live their lives without government intrusion, hindrance or indifference.


Governor Theodore Kulongoski

BRO and HRC: Vote To Reelect Ted Kulongoski for Oregon Governor

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Message from Basic Rights Oregon & the Human Rights Campaign: Reelect Governor Ted Kulongoski

Basic Rights Oregon and the Human Rights Campaign wholeheartedly support and urge you to reelect Ted Kulongoski for Oregon Governor in the upcoming November election.

As GLBT Oregonians, we have been fortunate to live in a state where our Governor has continuously supported our community. Governor Kulongoski has done more to stake out a public position in favor of GLBT equality than any other Governor in the country and he has ensured that we have a voice at the table.

From the beginning of his career and every step along the way, Governor Kulongoski never forgot about the GLBT community and worked to represent all constituents in the state. He has advocated for equality and stood toe-to-toe against those who attacked us.

Here are just a few examples:

  • As a first-term legislator in the 1970s, Governor Kulongoski introduced one of Oregon's first anti-discrimination bills.

  • He has consistently and publicly opposed and campaigned against anti-GLBT ballot measures, including 2004's Measure 36.

  • As Attorney General, he directed his staff to draft an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court on Oregon's behalf, arguing that Colorado's anti-GLBT Amendment 2 was unconstitutional -- a brief that was widely considered to have a significant impact in getting the measure thrown out.

  • In his first term as Governor, he introduced anti-discrimination legislation, and requested the landmark Senate Bill 1000, which passed the Senate in 2005 and would have created civil unions for same-sex couples and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Following the 2005 session the Governor formed the Governor's Task Force on Equality to continue to move the issue of relationship rights and anti-discrimination forward between legislative sessions.

  • And, most recently, the Governor has appointed a senior staff-member as an official liaison to the GLBT community - and for that reason alone, he has earned our vote.

    Those are just a few examples of the work that Governor Kulongoski has conducted in support of our community. He is the ONLY candidate in this year's race for Governor with a more than 30-year pro-equality record.

    But there is another clear reason to reelect Governor Kulongoski. The stakes in this election could not be higher for the future of equality in Oregon. During the last legislative session, Oregon made history by passing a historic civil unions and anti-discrimination bill in the Oregon Senate, only to see it die in the Oregon House.

    In 2007, we WILL pass the bill in both the House and the Senate, but without a pro-equality Governor in office to sign the legislation, the discrimination against us will continue to stand.

    Governor Kulongoski's Republican opponent, Ron Saxton, has vowed to veto any pro-equality legislation, including a civil union or antidiscrimination bill.

    It is clear that a vote for any candidate other than Ted Kulongoski would ensure a Saxton victory which would be a tragic setback for our community and we cannot allow that to happen.

    That's why we are urging you to not only to cast your vote for Ted Kulongoski in November, but to get involved as well. Your support for pro-equality candidates will ensure that we elect legislators that will represent all residents in Oregon fairly and equally.

    Remember that it is up to all of us to stop the extremist who continue to attack our community. We need to come together this election season to defeat the politics of hate and send a clear message to future candidates that GLBT Americans will not be used as punching bags for their political gain.

    Thank you for your continued support.

  • RON SAXTON: A Real Threat to Oregon

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Two weeks ago we told you about the anti-gay record of Republican nominee for Governor Ron Saxton and the danger for the GLBT community if he were to get elected.

    If you missed that message, here's a reminder:

    During the Primary election, we got to see the real Ron Saxton: a candidate who has allied himself with the most virulent anti-gay forces in Oregon. As a result, the GLBT community faces an Election Day threat every bit as serious as Ballot Measures 36, 13, and 9.

    Saxton even opposes basic equal treatment for GLBT Oregonians and our families. Forget about equal marriage rights: Saxton opposes even civil unions.

    Saxton doesn't seem to have any problem with anti-GLBT discrimination. He opposes adding sexual orientation and gender identity to anti-discrimination statutes and has vowed to veto any bill like Senate Bill 1000 should it pass in the next legislative session.

    Ron Saxton actively courted - and won - the support of the anti-gay Oregon Family Council--the same people who put measure 36 on the ballot and fought against Senate Bill 1000.

    And, most recently, Ron Saxton made clear that he has no desire to stake out any pro-fairness or anti-discrimination position, when he refused to complete any portion of the Basic Rights Equality PAC candidate questionnaire.

    But -- make no mistake. Ron Saxton isn't just bad for the GLBT community. He has also staked out extreme anti-immigrant, anti-choice, anti-working families positions and more.


    Saxton Acknowledges Schools Need More Money, But Opposes It. In the Welches Debate, Saxton stated, "Do schools need more money? They probably need more money. But if you give them more money before you make changes none of this is going to get to the classroom where it needs to make a change." [Welches ONPA Debate, 7/14/06]


    Saxton Has Seal of Approval From Oregon's Leading Anti-Choice Group. During the primary, Saxton "actively courted" support from anti-choice groups. "We had a wonderful board meeting with him," stated Gayle Atteberry, Oregon Right to Life executive director. Oregonian columnist David Reinhard noted, "Saxton would sign almost any abortion limit... that Oregon Right to Life can get through the Legislature." [Oregonian, 5/3/06, 5/14/06]


    Saxton Advocates Barring the School House Door to the Children of Undocumented Citizens. Asked at the March 14 Willamette University debate whether the state should educate the children of undocumented citizens, Saxton said, "I believe we should not be offering services to those here illegally." Saxton, an attorney, advocates providing no tax-funded services to undocumented citizens in clear contravention of the Supreme Court case Plyer v. Doe. [Willamette University Debate, 3/14/06; Oregonian, 4/28/06]

    In addition, Saxton opposes limits on predatory payday loans, increases in the minimum wage for Oregon's hardest working families and clean car standards.


    GLBT Equality and the Governor's Race: Weigh in with your thoughts

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006
    Over at Blue Oregon folks are weighing in on each of the Gubernatorial candidates as they relates the future of GLBT equality in Oregon. Which candidate will be a stronger Governor in the fight for fairness? The Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC has not yet made an endorsement decision in the race for Governor. But that shouldn't stop you from heading on over to Blue Oregon to join the discussion.

    Basic Rights Oregon Denounces New York Marriage Decision

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    (Portland) Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest and most influential gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, denounced a New York Supreme Court decision today on same-sex marriage that failed to end discrimination against same-sex couples in the state of New York. In a 4-2 decision, New York's highest court held that the state constitution does not require extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples.

    Statement from Frank Dixon, Interim Executive Director:

    "Today's decision from the New York Supreme Court is disappointing, not just for New Yorkers, but for all Americans who care about fundamental fairness and equality under the law.

    Instead of recognizing as it has so many times in the past that the constitution is a guarantee of equality for all -- even when it is unpopular -- the Court turned its back on this promise. The majority opinion in this case did not rely on the law, but on tired myths about GLBT people and our families that have been shown time and again by medical and social science to be untrue. If the result of this decision were not so damaging to same-sex couples and their families, the absurd logic of this opinion would be a joke.

    Same-sex couples and their families in Oregon and across the country continue to experience discrimination that affects medical decision-making, end-of-life issues, parenting and more. Here in Oregon we continue to call on Oregon Courts and the Oregon Legislature to consider this issue carefully and stand on the side of justice and fairness under the law for all of our citizens.

    While we are saddened today by the New York decision, we also know that this set-back is but one marker in a long struggle for equality. Just as in New York and across the country, Basic Rights Oregon will continue to fight on every front until the full equality we seek is achieved."

    Background: The Hernandez decision is the final disposition of four separate lawsuits filed in several counties throughout the state by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and cooperating attorneys on behalf of more than 40 gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in New York. In the Hernandez case itself, the trial court had ruled for the gay and lesbian couples, holding that the state domestic relations laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman violated the equal protection and due process guarantees of the New York constitution, but the intermediate appellate court reversed, finding no constitutional violation and suggesting that the question of marriage equality was one for the state legislature. In the other three cases, the trial courts had all ruled that the state marriage laws did not violate the constitution and the intermediate appellate courts had affirmed those rulings.

    New York's highest court rejects marriage equality

    (The Advocate) New York's highest court ruled this morning that there is no right to same-sex marriage under current state law. In a 4-2 decision, the Court of Appeals asserted that marriage is restricted to opposite-sex couples in the state and that the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians are not violated because of that, the Associated Press reports.

    However, the judges acknowledged the possibility that New York's legislature could change state law to allow marriage equality. "We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives," Judge Robert Smith wrote for the majority, according to the AP.

    Four cases involving 44 same-sex couples from around the state were combined into one omnibus case for the court to rule on. In three of those cases, lower courts had rejected a right to same-sex marriage, but a New York City court had ruled in favor of it.

    "It's a sad day for New York families," plaintiff Kathy Burke of Schenectady, who's raising an 11-year-old son with her partner of seven years, told the AP. "My family deserves the same protections as my next door neighbors."

    Empire State Pride Agenda released the following statement:
    Albany, July 6, 2006 - New York State's highest court today in a four to two vote found no Constitutional mandate to provide same-sex couples access to marriage. The decision-which comes after more than two years of litigation, community education and organizing-leaves same-sex couples and their families without the access to the protections that the government gives to all other families through marriage.

    "It is unacceptable that the Court has turned its back on New York's long history of equality and justice," said Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda. "Today's decision is far from the end of the battle for New York's lesbian and gay families. The Court has had its say, and now it is time for our elected officials to stand against discrimination and support marriage equality. Today, the Pride Agenda begins a campaign to press Albany to pass a marriage bill in 2007. For two years, legislators have waited for the Court to rule on this issue. It's now time for Albany to lead."

    Families across the state also called upon their elected officials for support:

    "Equal protection under the law has not been granted to my partner and me, together for over thirteen years in a committed, loving relationship." said Manhattan resident Scott Sinclair, speaking about his long-term relationship with Rob Buchanan. "To treat our relationship different than that of opposite-sex couples is discriminatory and we are shocked at the Court's ruling. This can not continue and my partner and I, along with many others, will take this matter to our elected representatives."

    "It is now time for my legislators to support my family," said Albany resident Darcy Rickard. "My family is based on love. And that love needs the protections that come with marriage."

    "It's appalling that our government doesn't want to give us the tools necessary to protect our family," said Rochester residents Jo Meleca and Christine Voigt. "As tax-paying, law-abiding Americans we deserve the full rights of citizenship. We will not rest until we get them. We will be asking out legislators to do the right thing and end this discrimination."

    "This evening a broad coalition of supporters will gather in cities across New York to send a clear message that marriage equality is the right thing for our state," said Van Capelle. "Over the past two years, people of faith, organized labor, business leaders and many other allies have spoken out for the need for equality for all New York families. Today we stand with the majority of New Yorkers who want lawmakers to make the right decision and support equal access to marriage."

    The Pride Agenda is organizing statewide rallies to call for swift legislative action in granting equal access to marriage. The rallies will be held in seven locations across the state, including New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse; in attendance will be same-sex couples, local elected officials, union leaders and clergy.