CommunityPam's House Blend

Oregon Civil Unions Bill passes committee, heads to full Senate

Will Oregon’s Richard Raymen & Steven Hansen get some measure of legal protection for their marriage? Not if Hillsboro Senator Charles Starr has anything to say about it!

House Blenders: “Radical” Russ is your barista for the next few days while Pam is on vacation for her anniversary.

In the wake of Oregon’s disappointing vote on the Constitutional Amendment to deny Equal Rights to Gay Citizens, many activists and their supporters in state government began working to craft some sort of legal protections for Oregon’s gay couples. The good news is that Oregon’s Civil Unions bill has passed its committee and is headed to the Democratically-controlled Senate. The bad news is the Republican-controlled House wants to strip it down to something they call “reciprocal benefits”. From

(Salem, Oregon) A Senate panel passed a bill to create civil unions Tuesday, the latest step in the Legislature’s battle over whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to have legally recognized relationships.

The bill to extend the benefits and rights of marriage to gay couples passed on a partisan 3-2 vote, with Democrats in favor.

It will now head to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass, setting up a tug-of-war with the Republican-controlled House, which is currently considering its own bill. That legislation would provide a more limited set of reciprocal rights to any two people over 18, including relatives.

…But Sen. Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro, argued that the bill goes against the will of the voters, who passed a ban on gay marriage last year.

“(This bill) is simply ‘gay marriage’ by another name,” Starr said.

Starr said homosexuality is a choice that should not be supported in state law.

…The civil unions bill is half of the bill Gov. Ted Kulongoski introduced earlier in the session. The full bill would have provided civil unions and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The discrimination portion of the bill has not been voted on yet, and may be shelved for the session.

While a bipartisan group of Senators support the civil unions bill, House Republicans have introduced what they consider a replacement for civil unions — called reciprocal benefits — that would extend about a dozen rights to any two people, including relatives.

Oh, gosh, thanks Oregon House Republicans for these meager crumbs of inequality! Hmm, from “gay marriage” to “civil unions” to “reciprocal benefits”, the Republicans keep adding more syllables as they subtract more rights.

And Senator Starr, while it is true that Oregon voters did approve Measure 36 (no gay marriage) in the last election, you’re being disingenuous to say that this bill goes against the “will of the voters”.

Oregonians demonstrate strong support for the comprehensive protections and legal recognition available through civil unions over the limited protections provided through a reciprocal beneficiary. In fact, polling of Oregon voters conducted in November 2004 by both Hart Research and Decision Research suggests that the Defense of Marriage Coalition, Oregon Family Council and others are wrong when they claim that the creation of civil unions violates the will of Oregon voters who approved Measure 36, therefore reciprocal benefits are the “reasonable compromise.”

Of those Oregon voters who supported Measure 36, a majority–57%–agree with allowing gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions, but not marriage. Measure 36 supporters were asked to clarify whether they were more supportive of:

A) Civil unions that provide ALL of the same protections and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples, or
B) A system that provides just SOME of the protections

In response, voters indicated, by a margin of nearly 10 points, that they more strongly support civil unions that provide ALL of the protections and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.

Learn more about the fight for equal rights in the Great Pacific Northwest from OnwardOregon.

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