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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 14
Oregon will drop ballot initiative if court strikes marriage ban
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Oregon will drop ballot initiative if court strikes marriage ban

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Oregon United for Marriage said on April 2 that it would drop its ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage if a federal judge strikes down their state's ban by May 23.

'Oregon is closer than ever to winning marriage for all loving, committed couples in our state,' Oregon United for Marriage campaign manager Mike Marshall said in a statement.

'We would prefer a quick resolution of the court cases, and, if possible, to avoid an expensive marriage campaign, especially now that we are facing an Arizona-style discrimination measure that would allow businesses to turn people away from commercial services because of who they are and whom they love.'

Four couples filed federal lawsuits last year challenging the state's 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

The lawsuits, Geiger et al. v. Kitzhaber and Rummell et al. v. Kitzhaber, assert that the marriage ban violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

In February, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced her office would not defend the state's ban, saying she failed to find 'a valid reason' to prevent same-sex marriages.

The initiative campaign to repeal Oregon's ban on same-sex marriages was launched in July last year, and gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by December.

Oregon United for Marriage organizers worried, however, that a statewide initiative campaign would be too costly. In an amicus brief filed with U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane, Oregon United argues that an initiative campaign would be expensive for the state and for Oregon businesses.

A popular vote also carries 'substantial social costs,' with same-sex couples and their families paying 'a high emotional price when their basic civil rights are up for debate,' the group added.

In addition, right-wing groups have launched a rival initiative campaign of their own. The so-called 'Protect Religious Freedom Initiative' was filed in November by the Oregon Family Council, the same group that led the successful 2004 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.

The proposed initiative, which is also aimed at the November ballot, would allow individuals and businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples seeking to be married. It is now in the process of receiving its official title from the Oregon secretary of state's office.

Once that is complete, supporters can begin collecting the required 85,000 or so signatures needed to get the measure before voters.

The suits have now been consolidated by Judge McShane, with oral arguments scheduled for April 23. If federal courts do not rule on the pending lawsuits by the May 23 deadline, Oregon United for Marriage has until July 3 to submit the signatures its gathered for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative, which will then be put on the November ballot.

A poll released by Oregon United For Marriage in February showed that 55% of the state's likely voters supported same-sex marriage while only 41% were opposed.

Oregon has recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions since October 2013.

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