OPINION: Marriage Equality in Oregon

The Oregonian
|
January 7, 2013

Oregon already tried rushing into gay marriage. It didn't work. This is why gay-rights leaders in this state sound so cautious, so practical-minded, when they describe plans to try marriage a second time around. Their prudence is admirable and grounded in political reality. Yet as Illinois, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey, Delaware and other states mobilize to legalize gay marriage in 2013, I can't help but wish Oregon would toss out its 14-point strategic plan and throw itself headlong into marriage again. In 2004, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners abruptly voted to legalize gay marriage, which sparked an immediate signature drive for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Oregon voters passed the gay-marriage ban by nearly 57 percent, putting Oregon near the front of the state-by-state movement to formally seal off marriage from gay people. Today, Oregon is one of 31 states with constitutional bans. This status seems like an odd fit for Oregon, a blue-tilting state with a libertarian streak and loose ties to institutional religion. It seems odder with each passing month, as more states legalize gay marriage and public acceptance of gay people grows. Still, gay-rights advocates in Oregon say 2013 is too soon for a legislative referral or public vote.