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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 14 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 11
Oregon Republican conference votes for marriage equality Conservatives denounce the move
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Oregon Republican conference votes for marriage equality Conservatives denounce the move

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Oregon Republicans gathered at their state-wide Dorchester Conference and voted by a convincing margin to support marriage equality. According to Freedom Oregon, the vote was 233 to 162.

The annual Republican conference was founded in 1965 by Robert Packwood, then an up-and-coming Republican state legislator, and later a U.S. Senator. Packwood was unhappy with the rightward tilt of the Republican Party, which had nominated Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the presidency in 1964.

Republican conservatives boycotted this year's event, which they denounced as 'a publicity stunt for liberal social causes rather than a forum for Republican dialogue.' The Republican right held its own 'Freedom Rally' instead.

Nevertheless, Freedom Oregon celebrated the pro-equality vote. The group was organized to drum up Republican support for a proposed ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage.

'There are a large number of young Republicans who are finding their voice in the party,' said Alexis Wolf, a Republican active in Freedom Oregon. 'We don't believe the freedom to express love and commitment should be limited by government.'

James Owens, Chairman of Log Cabin Republicans Oregon and Co-Director of Freedom Oregon, said in a statement that 'the Dorchester Conference sets the tone for the GOP in Oregon for the coming year...'

'I'm proud to have led Log Cabin Republicans members on the floor of the convention today as we made history and moved one step closer to making marriage equality a reality for committed same-sex couples in this state,' Owens added.

'This wasn't a vote against an anti-gay resolution, it was a vote in favor of freedom for all Oregonians - and a message to those fringe members of the Oregon Republican Party obsessed with pushing discriminatory measures similar to Arizona's SB-1062 on the ballot in November. Today wasn't just great - it was the absolute best outcome for Log Cabin Republicans, and a statement that Oregon Republicans are becoming more mainstream, less divided, and ready to win on issues like economic freedom, personal responsibility, lower taxes and a less intrusive government.'

One day after the vote on marriage, the conference picked the moderate Republican Monica Wehby over rightwing state Representative Jason Conger in a straw poll on the upcoming U.S. Senate primary.

'The key to Republican Party relevance, at least in statewide races, is moderation on divisive social issues,' The Oregonian newspaper concluded in an editorial on the conference.

The ballot initiative must qualify by July 3 in order to get on the November ballot, but it is no longer the only road to marriage equality for Oregon. Two lawsuits have been filed in federal court challenging the state's marriage law, and a hearing on the combined suits is scheduled for April 23.

Oregon's attorney general Ellen Rosenblum said last month that she would not defend state law in court.

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