A small fight broke out in the first few minutes of today's hearing that ended with a judge
issuing a temporary injunction against domestic partnership taking effect next week in Oregon.
An unidentified man skirmished with two security guards during Judge Michael Mosman's opening statements at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse. Once restrained, the man muttered under his breath: "Get thee behind me, Satan."
That was but one example of how herves, tempers and emotions ran high in Mosman's courtroom, as the judge presided over a 90-minute hearing in the case brought by the Alliance Defense Fund against the Oregon Secretary of State's office.
The Alliance successfully sought a temporary injunction against the implementation startng Jan. 2 of House Bill 2007, a law providing over 500 rights and benefits through state-sanctioned domestic partnerships to same-sex couples in Oregon (see Been There, Done That"
in this week's paper).
"I think this case stands or falls on whether I view this activity [the signing of a petition or referendum] as a fundamental right," Judge Mosman stated early in the hearing. "The right to vote has been held up as a fundamental right, but no where have I seen this applied to petitions or referendums."
To that, the Alliance Defense Fund — which fell just short earlier this year in its effort to gather enough signatures to put a repeal of domestic partnership on the 2008 state ballot — produced a 9th Circuit case from Idaho.
In that case, a federal judge equated a voter's rights with those who sign a referendum/ballot measure. After a brief recess, Mosman asked pointed questions as to the approval process for petition signatures, and what opportunity signers have for defending themselves when signatures are deemed invalid or false.
"The state action being challenged is the one that says a state agent can make a unilateral decision that those signatures don't match," Mosman said.
The judge then compared disqualified signatures in Oregon's vote by mail - a process during which a voter deemed "unqualified" has ten days in which to challenge that status - and the process by which disqualified signatures on a referendum/ballot measure are processed. In the latter, he said there's no such opportunity for the disqualified signatories to "defend" their signature.
Catherine Jordan, an attorney representing the Oregon Secretary of State's office, argued that it would be "incredibly challenging" to provide that same process to all disqualified signatories because of the random sampling process inherent to approving signatures coming through the Secretary's office each month on ballot measures.
The judge has set a hearing on Feb. 1 to consider a permanent injunction of HB 2007.
Basic Rights Oregon's freshly appointed Executive Director, Jeana Frazzini, expressed shock at the decision. "I don't think anyone was expecting this decision... and if I thought I was entrusting a petition gatherer on a street corner with my vote, I would never sign a petition again."
BRO had planned a series of statewide parties to celebrate the first day of domestic partnerships under HB 2007 next Wednesday, Jan. 2.
With the partnerships postponed indefinitely under Mosman's ruling, Frazzini says the parties will continue, but to celebrate a different law going into effect on Jan. 1: the non-discrimination law covering bias crimes and gender identity. "That's a huge decades-long accomplishment," Frazzini says. "And we will celebrate it on January 2nd across the state."
Frazzini also expressed optimism in the face of the judge's ruling: "We know it's going to be an ongoing fight - it's not just one battle or one decision... I feel confident in our community and in our organization that we will prevail. We're going to move forward and we're going to succeed."