March 9th, 2005 Taylor Clark, Ww Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

1992

     
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Lon Mabon (center) in Springfield City Hall, flanked by Loretta Neet and Scott Lively. A protester's sign challenges their views.

Straight and Narrow

BY TAYLOR CLARK

"All governments in Oregon may not use their monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. All levels of government, including public education systems, must assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided." -Measure 9

Lon Mabon. His name has been uttered with a grimace or a gag by Oregon liberals for years. But in the early 1990s, Mabon and his Oregon Citizens Alliance were a political force at the apex of their power.

Mabon was a Vietnam vet and hippie-turned-born-again-Christian who sported the righteous mustache of a Southern evangelist. He looked more like a TV repairman than a power broker.

But despite his unsophisticated political background, Mabon notched some stunning victories. In 1988, the OCA mounted a successful signature drive to overturn an executive order by Gov. Neil Goldschmidt banning discrimination against gays. In 1990, the OCA persuaded Springfield to pass a city ordinance stripping gays of equal rights.

When 1992 rolled around, Mabon's conservative army had considerable momentum with the state Republican party's base. It was time to launch one of the nastiest culture wars in Oregon's history: Measure 9.

Measure 9 wasn't about discrimination or equal rights. It was a psychopathic drive to annihilate gayness itself. Its text, which would have gone straight into the state constitution, declared that homosexual behaviors were "abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse."

The war over Measure 9 was fought on many fields of battle-churches, television screens, front lawns, editorial pages and water coolers. Death threats flew like bullets.

But then a queer thing happened, something that Mabon and the OCA gang weren't prepared to deal with: straight liberals got pissed off.

Where straight people were supposed to react with indifference, they marched, gave cash and plastered their cars with purple "No on 9" bumper stickers. Where Measure 9 was supposed to make gays petrified of coming out, many took a deep breath and talked about their sexual orientation with co-workers, humanizing Mabon's "gay agenda." And where Mabon tried to strike gays where they couldn't defend themselves, coalitions for gay rights sprouted up-like Campaign for a Hate-Free Oregon and Basic Rights Oregon.

The OCA's acronym became so distasteful that the Oregon Cycling Association and the Oregon Council of Architects both changed their names to avoid the unpleasant nominal connection.

For many Oregonians, this was one of the state's shining moments-a bold stand against discrimination that would ring through history. But when the poll results finally poured in, the celebratory air was tinged with a sour reality. Although Measure 9 was defeated 56 to 44 percent, thousands of voters-638,527, to be exact-had supported a measure dubbing homosexuality "perverse."

Mabon didn't give up easily. The OCA rammed 26 "Baby 9's" through cities and counties in 1993, but the Legislature soon shot them down. In 1994, Mabon peddled a watered-down version of Measure 9, couched as a "Child Protection Act." It failed, 52 to 48 percent.

By the late 1990s, Mabon's spell was broken. Appearing on the same platform as the OCA was political suicide, even for staunch conservatives.

But Mabon faced financial ruin as well as political asphyxiation. Catherine Stauffer, a photographer for Just Out, sued the OCA in 1991 after she was violently thrown out of a meeting, and the legal battle lasted more than a decade. Mabon refused to pay any damages and in February 2002 spent a month in jail for contempt of court. A Multnomah Circuit Court judge later found Mabon responsible for $80,000 in damages and in March 2003 allowed Stauffer to seize Mabon's assets. Mabon claimed he had no assets to seize.

Mabon now lives back in Brooks with his wife of 32 years, Bonnie. When he ran for Senate as a Constitutional Party candidate in 2002, his listed occupation was "Bible Teacher." His only remaining pulpits are a blog, newswithviews.com, and the church he founded, New Covenant Ministries International, where he enjoys the title of "First Presiding Patriarch (Overseer)."

the perfect victim

BY WW EDITORIAL STAFF

Racist vandals target Azalea Cooley, an African-American lesbian confined to a wheelchair due to brain cancer, spray-painting swastikas and racial epithets on her Southeast Portland home and burning crosses in her yard. Portland liberals go ballistic: Why don't the cops do something? Turns out the whole thing was a hoax. Cooley vandalized her own house and faked brain cancer, though no one ever figured out why.


* Give me your plaid, your bleary, your huddled sock monkeys yearning to breathe free. Finally, Gen-X has a place to call its own when Dots Cafe opens on Southeast Clinton Street.

* Drunk, suicidal and running from police, burglar Bryan French breaks into a Laurelhurst house and holds 12-year-old Nathan Thomas hostage at knifepoint. After a tense standoff, police officers panic and open fire on French, killing him. Tragically, Thomas is also hit; he dies later that night.

* As the political season gets under way, Democrats do what they do best-beat up on each other. Les AuCoin and high-tech entrepreneur Harry Lonsdale trade insults as they vie for the Democratic nomination to face Bob Packwood in the U.S. Senate race. Lonsdale loses the primary by 330 votes.

* On the eve of the presidential election, Portland lawyer John Frohnmayer, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, blasts the Bush-Quayle ticket as "anti-art, anti-intellectual and anti-democracy." Despite his strong Republican ties, Frohnmayer, whose NEA tenure was scarred by scalding right-wing criticism over grants, says he'll vote for Clinton.

* Desperate to save herself and her children from her husband's beatings, Laotian immigrant Seng Chao Saechao poisons them with insecticide-then drinks some herself. She survives, but two of her kids don't. Saechao is sentenced to three years in prison. Her husband is convicted of assault.

* Portland author Mary Ann Humphrey hits the talk-show circuit when President-elect Bill Clinton says he'll lift the ban against gays in the military. The former Army reserve officer, who had to resign after superiors learned she was a lesbian, wrote an award-winning book about being pink in green.

* The 24-hour Church of Elvis shuts down after owner and sometime lawyer Stephanie Pierce defaults on a student loan. To raise cash, Pierce decides to imitate Biosphere II and lives in her own storefront fishbowl.

* Portland's first "smart bar" opens, offering amino acid-infused juice drinks and energy boosters. Says owner Chris Iverson: "I think this is a really evolutionary concept. It's going to replace the coffeehouses."

* Fiery evangelist Billy Graham brings his crusade to the Civic Stadium for a five-day run. On his final night, 41,500 people pack the stands to hear the 73-year-old preacher-a stadium record. The crusade's total attendance is an awe-inspiring 290,000 souls.

* Portland loses another institution when Quality Pie-a 24-hour haven for hipsters, scenesters, scamsters, hamsters, rock stars (pre- and post-nova), alcoholics in various stages of recovery, poets, gamers, insomniacs and other assorted creatures of the night-serves its final cup of joe.

* Sen. Bob Packwood beats back a determined challenge from Demo Congressman Les AuCoin. In the House, westsiders replace AuCoin with peacenik Elizabeth Furse, whiting out religious-right copier king Bill Witt.

* Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are too much for Clyde the Glide and Buck Williams as the Bulls beat the Blazers four games to two in the NBA Finals. Amazingly, after the series, disgruntled Portland fans and scribes call for the blood of coach Rick Adelman.


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