Since its inception, Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) has refrained from advancing any pro-GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) ballot measures, instead spending its time and resources batting down a series of annoying, costly, and discriminatory measures pushed by Oregon's ultra-conservatives. While many observers (and supporters) were expecting that trend to change in 2006, BRO announced last Friday, October 7—in no uncertain terms—that it will not put civil unions or anti-discrimination on the ballot next November.
Instead, BRO, the state's largest and most powerful GLBT rights group will start acting like a smaller, more regionally focused organization. In place of a high-profile, statewide campaign for victory at the ballot box, BRO will undertake a "public education campaign" to... well... de-phobe the homophobes around the state. Just how that process will happen is unclear, but the intent is to convert enough of the masses to create overwhelming support for civil unions once they decide to go forward with a ballot measure.
At the same time, BRO will be spending resources on electoral politics—i.e., populating the state assembly with supportive leaders, conservative House Speaker Karen Minnis from office. The ostensible goal is to create a friendly environment for civil unions legislation, like SB1000. But because of Oregon's once-every-two-years system of legislating, the soonest that will happen is 2007.
In one sense, the decision to play it safe is understandable, if not unexpected—it caps a year and a half of monumental disappointment, much of which was the result of BRO finally going on the offensive. Their high-profile bid for same-sex marriage at the Multnomah County level was squashed a year later by the state Supreme Court. And the legislative attempt at civil unions—bizarrely fumbled by Democrats—was ultimately sacked by GOP leaders who were dangling from the fingers of the Oregon Family Council. Another defeat, specifically another defeat at the hands of Oregon voters, could be one too many, sending BRO and the movement into a tailspin.
And that's not to mention the propriety of placing the rights of a minority group on the block for approval of the majority in the first place. Voters don't exactly have a great track record of protecting the rights of minorities.
Still, BRO has never put itself in a position of asking voters to say "yes" to anything. Aside from the failed efforts of the past 18 months, theirs has been a position of reaction, and rarely of forward action. In terms of statewide elections, this won't change until at least 2008. Pull up a chair and get comfy.