Gay Marriage | News | Oregon

Look to Oregon For Our Most Important Marriage Ballot Battle In 2014



In just ten months, Americans will be going to the polls once again. Seems like we just made the same journey yesterday but nevertheless the season is once more upon us. LGBT Americans will join the rest of country as we hold our breath to see who controls Congress and also if progressives can regain governorships in key states. As in every election year, this one will be proclaimed critical to the future of the country.

OregonFor the LGBT community, we will be looking westward toward the state of Oregon.

Since last July, the forces for equality have been gathering signatures to place on the ballot a measure that would repeal the state's constitutional amendment that bans marriage equality. In addition, it would make same sex marriage legal in the 'Beaver State'. The voters passed that constitutional ban in 2004 by a margin of 57% to 43%.

This will be the first time an effort has been made to repeal a constitutional marriage equality ban by ballot. If they are successful in Oregon, it means marriage equality forces can look to other states in 2016, such as Ohio, to start repealing constitutional amendments that exist in twenty-nine states.

Hopefully the courts will shortcut this entire process but we can't build our freedom on 'wishful thinking'. The effort for full marriage equality in every state must continue until we are successful.

So how are they doing in Oregon?

Peter-ZuckermanCommunications Director Peter Zuckerman for Oregon United for Marriage reports that for the ballot measure to qualify for the November election they need 116,284 valid signatures by July 3rd of this year. As of this week, the campaign has collected just over 122,000. Of course, we need to obtain many more to ensure that we have enough signatures once the Secretary of State's office checks for validity.

There is little doubt that Oregonians will go to the polls and vote on this issue in November.

The polls show a very tight race. On this particular ballot question, a poll shows us winning by less than a majority right now with 49% in favor of repeal and 42% for keeping the amendment. Another 9% are undecided. When voters are asked if they generally favor marriage equality that figure escalates to 54%.

While is a close race, it is a winnable race.

Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry, says the organization has made this 'a very high priority for 2014 since it is a chance to show that having won in the courts and having won in the legislatures we can show we can win at the ballot box." The organization already has two full time staff members in the state and is the largest out-of-state funder for the effort.

As neighboring Washington State proved it will be an expensive and tough battle. The people in the Evergreen State spent well over $12 million and had over 30,000 volunteer hours in the road to victory.

Wolfson and Zuckerman both believe it will take the same kind of effort to win in Oregon. Says Wolfson:

"From those of us outside Oregon, it will require early and sustained support for the excellent campaign we have come together to build -- Oregon United for Marriage -- probably in the $10-12 million range. For the campaign, it will require continued persuasion as well as a massive voter identification and turn-out effort, including voter registration, particularly among younger voters."

NikeCorporations are coming to the forefront in fighting for marriage equality in The Beaver State. Nike has already raised $280,000 to fight for the ballot measure.

So fasten your seatbelts, plan vacation time in Oregon, and start planning fundraisers in your home states since we need to hit the barricades fighting for freedom yet one more time. The LGBT community has learned to love the feeling of winning so let's not stop the momentum now.

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  1. so...MILLIONS more spent on Something that should be OURS to begin with......this country is such HYPOCRACY..Liberty & Justice fro all....nah, not really....just pretty words that make this nitwit nation sound better then it is - in REALITY!!!!

    Posted by: disgusted american | Jan 9, 2014 8:29:04 AM

  2. I think of all the other things this $$$ should be spent on,helping homeless LGBT youth,helping LGBT programs and instead it has to spent getting basic rights.
    It disguists me.

    Posted by: Kevin | Jan 9, 2014 8:46:08 AM

  3. I can't discount the importance - and my hopes - for Oregon; but I would like to draw attention to the good fight being fought in Indiana at this critical moment.

    In general, I find the people to be good but generally conservative in nature. That said, many of us have roots there and its important to make connections back to our home communities. I think amendment 2 in Colorado drove home that point. As people move to the "progressive" areas, they need to retain home connections. It is important for communities to know their ties with their LGBT brethren.

    Posted by: John in Chicago | Jan 9, 2014 9:16:32 AM

  4. Mr. Mixner,

    Since this is your first, or one of your first, posts on Towleroad, I presume you will be reading the comments. So I want to make a suggestion:

    Don't cheerlead. Don't allow your Towleroad posts to become a conduit for canned quotes. You bring to the table a great deal of intelligence and political experience. Use that to provide some unique, critical insight into the stories that you are posting about.

    Yes, we know that Oregon is the big battle of 2014, along with Indiana. Yes, it is great to include some polling numbers, although those numbers are at least 6 months old.

    But none of this is new. What would be great is to hear your view as to how Oregon United for Marriage is performing as an organization. It appears to be a professional operation with a good social media presence, and it will succeed in getting this measure on the ballot. However, the pace of signature collection has been painfully slow. They have been at this since the summer of 2013, and at their current pace, they won't have enough of a "cushion" for several more months. Contrast this with our opponents' Measure 36, which got 250,000 signatures in 6 weeks. Is Oregon United deliberately slow-boating the process for tactical reasons or does the slow pace reflect a lack of capacity on their part? And how are they planning on dealing with the fall-off in voter turnout in a mid-term election? These issues are ignored in mainstream coverage and you would bring real value to your posts by seeking out issues like this and analyzing them.

    Also, I hope that you will keep tabs on what the so-called Task Force is going to do in OR and IN. It is a scandal that this group, which was once the foremost gay rights group in the country, now little to nothing on our most important battles, other than issue press releases after the fact.

    Posted by: David W. | Jan 9, 2014 10:30:45 AM

  5. What if they lose?, Will they then take the matter to the courts?. Why can't the gay community present a united front and unequivocally state that civil rights are not up to the whim of voters. Regardless of which side they are on.

    Posted by: elwoodl | Jan 9, 2014 11:30:09 AM

  6. David W. has some valid concerns. I myself was bitterly disappointed when Basic Right Oregon (the parent organization of the current one) decided to not mount a challenge during the 2012 election cycle.

    I understood that they saw it as a losing proposition. I then got to watch Washington vote in Marriage Equality, so I can now get married 10 miles north of my home, but not in my home State.

    I'm not so sure you devolved into cheer-leading. I do think everyone: LGBT, our allies and right-minded people everywhere need to understand that Oregon needs their support now.

    Just like the folks in Indiana.

    Posted by: YSOSERIOUS | Jan 9, 2014 2:24:49 PM

  7. Public votes are a big risk, but also an opportunity.

    Winning at the ballot box can be much more effective at changing public opinion than a court victory. While having our legal rights recognized is the top priority, we don't want to continue to live in a society that is openly hostile. Also, when our opponents lose at the ballot box it demoralizes them like nothing else.

    The risk is obvious. We won in Washington state two years ago 54% to 46%, but that was during a presidential election year, which favors liberal turnout. That might cost a couple points. Also, Oregon might be slightly more conservative than Washington (in 2012, the Obama vote was about 2 percentage points lower). On the other side, public opinion has had an extra two years to evolve. Bottom line, I think it will be a close vote, and losing is a real possibility, though not necessarily likely.

    Posted by: Merv | Jan 9, 2014 2:27:37 PM

  8. Didn't Oregon reject legalized pot in 2012? We are going to ask these same people to approve equal marriage in a non-presidential election? I would love to be proven wrong, but I'm not optimistic.

    Posted by: Jonty Coppersmith | Jan 9, 2014 3:27:50 PM

  9. Jonty Coppersmith: Just a heads up on the pot thing. Oregon's 2012 campaign for legalization was nothing like Colorado or Washington's; there was literally no campaign in Oregon. The measure had something like $5,000 in expenses on the pro- side, it was a joke. Some pro-legalization activists also had some problems with the measure's language. All that considered, the fact that it still managed to win 47% of the vote shows that a real, concerted campaign would've won in Oregon in 2012, and that has only become more likely in the 2 years since.

    As for Oregon being more conservative than Washington, it's a bit more quirky than that. While GOP presidential candidates can expect to run a point or two ahead in Oregon versus their Washington percentage (42 vs 41 in 2012), I would contend Oregon is more STRUCTURALLY Democratic than Washington. While both states haven't elected GOP Governors in 30 years and have had similar presidential results (we both had Dukakis fever!), Oregon is way more Democratic down-ballot. D's have iron grips on all state offices, and Republicans generally don't even mount close challenges to those positions, whereas just in 2012 alone, the GOP won the Secretary of State position in Washington and managed close (46-48%) races for various other statewide positions.

    David W.'s post is spot-on as well. If I may add, the polls cited here (49 favor ban repeal/42 opposed, 54 favoring same-sex marriage) are by different polling outfits and months apart, so the trendlines don't transfer and you can't read much into them. They are also VERY dusty, year+ old polls. After the whirlwind of change that was 2013, I have to imagine that things have shifted further in Oregon. I'd like to see one of the respectable polling outfits poll Oregon again, both on same-sex marriage and pot.

    Midterm dropoff may be an issue, but thanks to Oregon voting by mail, it tends to lessen the impact. Plus, having these issues on the ballot encourages a higher turnout, historically. John Kitzhaber and Jeff Merkley have not been oblivious to this and no doubt the Democratic Party of Oregon is incorporating a strategy around it.

    My prediction may sound crazy, but I'm optimistic that Oregon voters will kill Measure 36 by a bigger margin than they passed it. The damn is bursting, and I think that by November of this year we can do better than 57%.

    Posted by: Matt C | Jan 9, 2014 8:59:18 PM

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