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April 8th, 2009 Megan Brescini | News Stories
 

They Do

Four states now allow same-sex marriage. Is Oregon close to following them to the altar?

     
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THE RITE TIME: Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Jeana Frazzini hopes to reverse Measure 36 in 2012.

On April 7, Vermont became the fourth state to recognize same-sex marriage when its Legislature voted to override the governor’s veto of a marriage-equality bill.

Tuesday’s vote came four days after Iowa’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Yet as Vermont and Iowa join Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing same-sex marriage—Oregon is still dealing with the fallout from Measure 36, in which state voters in 2004 limited marriage to one man and one woman.

Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, says she’d like to see a measure reversing Measure 36 on the ballot as soon as 2012.

“We need to take the time and care to move the conversation forward,” she says. “As folks consider the issues, and weigh information, people come to see that the hopes and dreams of a same-sex couple are very much the same as an opposite-sex couple. Being able to care for your loved one, retirement and health care and, in this economy, how to get by.”

Frazzini says her gay rights group is launching that campaign this year.

“There is nowhere else where the voting public is shifting their views so much,” says BRO organizing director Thomas Wheatley.

Tamara Metz, a professor of political science and humanities at Reed College, takes a different tack. She says the state shouldn’t even be in the business of regulating marriage, straight or gay.

“The reason the marriage issue is so sticky is that there are the resources that it provides, but there is also a symbolic recourse: the recognition,” says Metz, an expert on marriage and the state.

“There is no good liberal democratic reason that the state should retain that symbolic resource for heterosexual individuals,” Metz says. “The only argument that can be made for that is a religious argument.”

She notes that California voters’ passage last November of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, actually prevents some religions from exercising their rights. Quakers, for example, have long performed same-sex marriages, none of which will be legitimized in California law.

In 2007, Oregon’s Legislature passed a domestic partnership law that went into effect last year. Statistics indicate same-sex couples do not think it is good enough.

Frazzini says typically, in other states with a longer history of domestic partnership or its equivalent, only half of all same-sex couples register in the first three years.

As of February, the one-year anniversary of Oregon’s domestic partnership law, there were 2,600 domestic partnerships statewide—about one-quarter of the couples eligible to register.

“I’ve heard from many couples who are choosing not to register specifically because it’s unequal,” says Frazzini. “They are holding out for freedom, and for the right to marry.”


FACTS: Americans United for Separation of Church and State will host a symposium titled “Civil Rites, Same-Sex Marriage and the 1st Amendment,” 2 pm Sunday, April 19, at Portland State University. Free.

A study by UCLA predicts Iowa will get $160 million in the next three years from out-of-state couples’ spending on weddings and tourist activities.

 
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