This weekend, representatives from Basic Rights Oregon, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the state, announced their intention to start collecting signatures in October to request a 2012 election ballot initiative that they hope will win marriage equality (Clarification Below). The state currently allows domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, but an amendment in the state constitution officially declares marriage as only between one man and one woman.
The current amendment is a result of Measure 36, a 2004 ballot initiative where the Oregon population voted to ban same-sex marriage, by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent.
Polls are showing that marriage equality has support from around 40 percent of Oregon residents. In late June, Jeana Frazzini, the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said in a statement, "We are optimistic that Oregon will be the first state in the nation to embrace the freedom to marry by a vote of the people."
They won't be campaigning without opposition. The Oregon Family Council is gearing up right alongside Basic Rights Oregon, ready to rally conservatives in the state who oppose same-sex marriage. The Oregon Family Council, headed by co-founder Tim Nashif, was instrumental in winning the campaign for the passage of Measure 36.
In late June, Nashif told The Oregonian his intention to defeat any pro-gay ballot initiative. "We'll fight hard for it," he said. "We have been working for that end as if they are going to run. [But] ... it's a lot of stinking work and it causes a lot of hard feelings. ... I don't want to do it. Right now, Oregon has its own problems. We don't need to be tearing ourselves apart about this when we can't create enough jobs in this state."
Oregon's potential ballot measure in 2012 joins campaigns for pro-marriage equality initiatives in Maine and Colorado. North Carolina, Indiana, and Minnesota, meanwhile, are facing ballot initiatives that would ban same-sex marriage or create a constitutional amendment restricting any congressional action on the issue. In the past, when the majority has voted on the rights of the minority with regard to marriage equality, the result has never been the legalization of same-sex marriages.
Clarification: Today Basic Rights Oregon issued a statement to clarify information distributed by the local newspaper, The Salem Statesman Journal:
An article by the Salem Statesman Journal inadvertently implied that Basic Rights Oregon has already decided to gather signatures for a 2012 ballot measure, while in fact we do not expect to make this decision until later this year. In the meantime, we continue our work to educate the public about why civil marriage matters to caring and committed same-sex couples. Last year, we launched this education campaign to engage Oregonians in conversations in person, on social media and on TV. To get involved in this effort, visit us at www.lovecommitmentmarriage.org.