Petitioners Want Civil Union Laws Back On Ballots

This story was written by Jason Reed, Oregon Daily Emerald
Petitioners filed paperwork on Friday seeking to repeal the bill from last year's legislative session that legalized same-sex domestic partnerships, House Bill 2007, then on Monday filed paperwork to repeal the anti-discrimination law from the same session, Senate Bill 2.

The battle stretches back to the 2007 legislative session, but has much deeper roots. Some gay and lesbian rights activists feel the movement is part of a 30-year history of bigotry against their lifestyle by two main groups: state leaders who should be protecting Oregon's citizens, and religious factions who are trying to limit equal right guarantees for Oregonians. "Our opponents have said all along that they would file again," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director for the gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon, in a press release. "While I'm not surprised that initiatives to repeal the laws have been filed, I'm shocked that this effort has been spearheaded by legislators whose duty is to protect Oregonians."

Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, one of the chief petitioners against the domestic partnership bill, said his name is on the petition because he is seeking closure to the issue and feels the democratic process has been violated.

"If I had strong feelings against homosexuals and gays, I'd tell you," Esquivel said. "But it's not about lesbianism and sexuality -- it's all about the process."

He referred to 2004's Measure 36, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Voters approved the measure, but in 2007 the legislature passed HB 2007, which made domestic partnerships legal, without asking the voters how they feel, Esquivel said.

"Let's put this thing to rest one way or another," Esquivel said. "If (the law) passes and people say, 'I'm fine with it,' then I'm OK with that."

But BRO spokeswoman Karynn Fish said they are dealing with "historic intolerance," and "we shouldn't be voting on other people's civil rights."

If petitioners obtain 82,769 signatures for each petition by July 3, both issues will go to a November vote.

"The truth is that Oregonians don't want to put their neighbors in harm's way by taking these laws off the books... And Oregonians believe that discrimination is wrong," Frazzini said.

Esquivel said that if Oregonians truly do feel this way, then they should be able to display their feelings through a ballot vote. He said he told a BRO employee "you should be the first one to sign the petition if you feel so strongly" that Oregonians want these laws to exist.

"I just want to know why are they scared to let people weigh in on this," Esquivel asked. "It's because they don't know if they'll get the same results."
© 2008 Oregon Daily Emerald via U-WIRE