After 15 years since its heyday when its biggest success, Measure 9, (almost) made discrimination against gays a part of our state's constitution, the once-powerful Oregon Citizens Alliance is stirring from hibernation to go against queer culture one more time. This rebirth comes despite the fact state voters have defeated its efforts at nearly every turn. But don't underestimate the will of this infamous group.
At a recent "reunion" attended by a paltry 30 people from the OCA's greatly depleted flock, the group's fearless leader, Lon Mabon (who's had his share of troubles in the past, including jail time), pretty much admitted defeat. Mabon agreed homos have won battles to eliminate anti-gay legislation in this state (see page 8). But that doesn't mean he believes his work is done. In fact, he's raring to add new members to his ranks. So, who is his new demographic (a.k.a. foot soldiers of intolerance)? The Russian-language communities of Oregon.
And why not? Right now Russia is a hotbed of hate, especially against gays. At last year's "Moscow Pride '06," activists faced bricks. And as recently as last week, the mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, said he would never allow a gay-pride parade in his city because he considered them "Satanic."
Russian-based, anti-gay fervor seems to have emigrated to our country. The Los Angeles Times reported last year that in Sacramento, Calif., Russian-language churchgoers disrupted gay-pride events and other gatherings where gay issues were discussed.
Back in Oregon, Aisling Coghlan, interim director for Basic Rights Oregon, knows of no incident that leads her to worry our Slavic-speaking communities (about 50,000 strong, according to the 2000 Census) would follow in Mother Russia's footsteps.
But Coghlan concedes BRO, the state's most progressive gay-rights group, should be concerned that OCA is "once again trying to generate hate in our state. The truth is, there are still no protections for members of the GLBT community in our state."
The best defense is a good offense, Coghlan says: "We have to work to ensure the Legislature passes non-discrimination and family-equality protection this session."
Viktor Pavlov, a spokesman for the Slavic Baptist Church on Southeast 76th Avenue, said Tuesday: "I can't speak for all the [Russian] churches, but we are staying away from political agendas."
Aware that local Russians rarely speak to the press, I took a chance that former City Council candidate Emilie Boyles, whose disgraced campaign claimed deep roots in Portland's Russian 'hoods, might have a take.
Boyles, quick to respond, sent an email from her new home in Eastern Montana.
She wrote, "Those [Russians] who have come here...have given sufficient evidence to show they and their families have been persecuted because of their faith, a faith which is in alignment...with the values that are purportedly held by the Oregon Citizens Alliance."
In other words, knock yourself out, Lon. Or, delat' iz mukhi slona—make a mountain out of a molehill.