Oregon House Approves Two Gay Rights Bills

By a vote of 34-26 (with three Republicans joining 31 Democrats) the Oregon House voted to approve House Bill 2007, a domestic partnership bill which offers same-sex couples a broad range of new rights.

Oregonmap_2According to All Headline News, “If approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor, House Bill 2007 would put same-sex couples on the same legal footing as married couples when it comes to estate planning and medical decision-making, but stops short of civil union laws on the books in Vermont and Connecticut.”

Byron Beck at Williamette Week made note of an ironic incident during today’s vote: “House pages tried to block Aimee Wilson, the partner of Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland), from being on the floor during the debate because she wasn’t a family member. Wilson eventually made it on the floor.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, and, if approved, to Governor Ted Kulongoski, who has said he will sign the bill.

The House also approved Senate Bill 2 which bans discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in employment, housing and access to public accommodations. It already passed the Senate 21-7 on March 21.

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  1. John says

    Take credit while you can, Democrats. I’m sure the Log Cabin Republicans will spin the good news into “John Kerry Hates Gays” in 5…4…3…2…

  2. says

    Great coverage. Thanks for the link.

    Next, because Senate Bill 2 (anti-discrimination) was slightly amended in the House, it now moves back to the Senate for a quick vote–though our Domestic Partnership bill is also headed to the Senate. Last session (2005) they approved a similar bill that would have allowed civil unions.

    If passed, Oregon will become the first state in the US to approve such an incredible law on the heals of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (2004). These two bills are the start of full equality in Oregon.

    Both bills are expected to pass, and the Governor is waiting with his pen to sign them.

  3. Carlos says

    Before we celebrate, you can bet that the laws will be placed on the ballot by citizens’ initiative. The rightwing is already galvanized to overturn the advances in CO, WA, and OR, and with the history of anti-gay initiatives passing in these states, the progress may be short-lived.

  4. Oregon Student says

    Carlos, that is the very reason that the name was changed from “Civil Union” to “Domestic Partnership.” As I see it, the hierarchy in the US goes as:

    Same-sex Marriage (MA)
    Civil Unions (VT, CT, NJ)
    Domestic Partnerships (CA, ME, WA, DC)
    Reciprocal Benefits (HI)

    Hopefully, two steps removed from the top will be enough to prevent a ballot initiative against the partnerships from passing. It should be noted that 43% of Oregonians voted against the same-sex marriage ban in 2004, so I feel that domestic partnerships are reasonably safe.

    The ban in 2004 was a reaction to the same-sex marriage licenses given out in Multnomah county. I think the majority will be hardpressed to take away legally-afforded rights this time.

  5. John says

    Oregon Student, you’re right, but not for the reason you outlined.

    I don’t think it matters much what the actual rights and responsibilities conferred actually are. The average voter has no idea what the family code says. California’s domestic partnerships are an excellent example of that. For all intents and purposes, they are legally equilvalent to civil unions in New Jersey (per the ruling of the NJ Attorney General). However, most Californians don’t know that. And sadly, that’s a good thing given the reactionary proclivities of American voters.

    People are generally more inclined to support gay rights if they THINK we’re getting far less marriage. That is the unfortunate reality of it. And since most of them believe in the “hierarchy” – whether it reflects reality or not… the California and Oregon legislatures probably figure (correctly) they could actually trick the public into accepting a kind of civil union by calling it domestic partnership instead.

    I know that’s not what most gays want. But, politically, it’s a pragmatic and wise scheme.

  6. Stephen says

    Good things are happening for same sex couples in several states. Domestic partnership and civil union bills seem to be advancing.
    Essentially, the benefits (within these bills) will bridge the gap between the different couples (homosexual / heterosexual).

    Progress, for sure.

  7. JakeK says

    Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have a history of having the most anti-gay ballot initiatives of any states. It is almost guaranteed that these pro-gay laws will be challenged by voter referenda, possibly overturned. The vote in Colorado last November really crushed our side on domestic partnership rights and gay marriage. Oregon voters voted against gay marriage in 2004 and have an anti-gay measure on the ballot almost perpetually. Washington has had a similarly anti-gay ballot initiative history.

  8. johnnie says

    Oregon proves once again that it can’t bite the bullet on gay relationship recognition. Domestic parnerships? Puh-lease, give me a break. This is an insult to gay people in Oregon and further proof that Oregon gays are too easily sated by tokenistic gestures.

    Why couldn’t it have been civil unions at the bare minimum?

  9. Zeke says

    It’s important to keep in mind that as we achieve successes the right wing will become increasingly desperate and ruthless. They are already ratcheting up the rhetoric at the “Traditional Values Coalition”, where Louis Sheldon has declared that anti-gay groups have been too nice and he has stated that replacing “gay” with “homosexual” is no longer sufficient; the new suggested nomer is “Sodomite”.

    Just like America saw an increase in the rhetoric and tactics of racists and segregationists in the South in the mid to late sixties, we are seeing, and will continue to see, escalation of homophobic rhetoric and anti-gay violence.

    It’s time to reinforce, rejuvenate, buckle down, dig in and fight with every thing we’ve got.

    And more important that anything COME OUT, COME OUT, COME OUT! This is one fight that can’t be fought covertly from the safety of the closet. Coming out is the one act, more than any other, that promotes equality and acceptance of GLBT people. A SINGLE person coming out to family, friends and co-workers does more to change hearts and minds than all of the Pride marches, circuit parties and HRC banquets COMBINED ever could.

    NOTHING scares and threatens anti-gay people more that out gay people who live their lives respectably. Why else would they work so hard to keep us in the closet, put us back into the closet (with “reparative therapy), and work so hard to oppose ADDING GLBT hate crimes to the EXISTING hate crimes legislation (which has protected religious people for almost 40 years). They will support ANYTHING that helps to keep us closeted, in fear and silent. Don’t let these assholes punk you!

    Stephen, they are a START to bridging the gap but as long as there is one set of rules for some citizens and another set of rules for other citizens there will always be a gap, no matter how you try to sugar coat it.

  10. Zeke says

    Oh, and one more thing…

    There has been a monumental change across America since the backlash, panic days of 2004. I’m not so sure that voter initiatives would be nearly as successful in ANY of these states as they were before. CO, for one, has had a HUGE liberal wave, since the 90’s and both WA and OR have swung, demonstrably, to a deeper shade of blue since 2004.

  11. John T says

    When I first moved to Oregon in the fall of 1992, there was an ugly ballot measure coming up for a vote on the ballot (I don’t think I can do links here in the comment, so go google Measure 9, Lon Mabon, and the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance). The measure got defeated by a frighteningly small margin and highlighted Oregon’s urban/rural divide regarding “values”. I don’t know if things have really gotten that much better statewide, but it’s good to see this happening in the legislature. I hope the backlash is containable.

  12. DCCaniac says

    ” for one, has had a HUGE liberal wave, since the 90’s ”

    Yet just last November, CO voters still voted to forbid gay marriage AND voted against even a minimal recognition of same-sex relationships. The change in CO has been greatly exaggerated as far as gay issues go.

  13. JA says

    It was a pro-Democrat wave, not a pro-gay wave. There’s a huge difference between the two, regardless of what the HRC might have us believe.

    In fact, the wave probably would’ve been even bigger had the religious right not turned out for the GOP. Those voters did show up in 2006 to vote against gays and abortion, it just wasn’t enough against the tide of national discontent.

    Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose East San Francisco constituency includes uber queer SOMA and the Castro, hasn’t mentioned the words “gay rights” since assuming office. It’s kryptonite. Nobody wants to touch it. Not even our closest straight “friends.”

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