This week a dedicated group of Oregonians began the official process of undoing a great injustice. In 2004, during the great wave of anti-equality measures across the nation, Oregon voters passed Measure 36, a constitutional amendment denying LGBT couples marriage equality. Although the margin was smaller than in most states, it was a decisive and depressing result.
Oregon United For Marriage is a new group allied with Basic Rights Oregon. Their goal is to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot to overturn the constitutional amendment and create true equality. The initial petition required 1,000 signatures; OU4M gathered over twice that many, including signatories like Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Gov. Barbara Roberts. They must now obtain approximately 100,000 signatures to get the measure certified for the ballot.
Oregon was one of the first states to issue same-sex marriage licences. In early 2004, Multnomah and Benton counties decided that the equal protection clause in the state constitution trumped the male/female language in the marriage statutes. That effort resulted in the backlash that passed Measure 36. Even in the wake of that defeat, the Oregon legislature created a "marriage in all but name" domestic partnership law championed by Senator Frank Morse (R - Albany). That separate but equal provision at least creates some basic rights and protections.
Equality activists debated placing the issue on the 2012 ballot, but polling indicated a tight battle. As it turns out, the Oregon electorate would probably have joined the three other states (including neighboring Washington) that passed equality measures given the turnout last November. With current polls showing a huge 54 - 40 margin in favor of equality, the new measure should put Oregon on the right side of justice with the nine (and counting) other states.