Ballot Measure 9 was defeated in this election by only 5% of the cast votes--a gap of 86,000 that the OCA is working on closing up quickly. The new initiative was filed not only by Lon Mabon, current head of the OCA, but also by Lou Beres, head of the Christian Coalition. With the support of thousands of members of the Christian Coalition, their support could tip the balance in favor of the anti-gay initiative.
"Lon has picked up a powerful ally in Lou Beres," says Jaime Balboa, director of Basic Rights Oregon and the recent No on 9 campaign. "Beres has access to a lot of churches in Oregon," he explained, "churches that may not be supportive of Mabon, but are of the Christian Coalition."
The new draft of the Student Protection Act also has veiled some of the more objectionable aspects of the failed Measure 9. Balboa worries that the new draft will be more palatable for some fence-sitters.
"What we think they did," explains Balboa, "is sit down with a No on 9 facts sheet and tried to counteract them."
"This statute shall not limit or diminish the teaching of age-appropriate, objective and factual AIDS education... provided such teaching upholds the prohibitions established in this statute," it reads.
Unlike Measure 9, the new initiative allows suicide counseling for gay teens and prohibits the firing of teachers because they are gay. Yet all of these are still required without "expressing approval of, promot[ing], or endors[ing] the behaviors of homosexuality or bisexuality." Effectively, an openly gay teacher would have to condemn his own sexuality to retain his job.
Balboa and Basic Rights Oregon have plans to work with the ACLU to look at potential legal challenges to the bill. He anticipates a smaller voter turnout, since 2002 won't be a presidential election year. The No on 9 Campaign spent $1.4 million to defeat the measure last year.
"I think this initiative is every bit as dangerous as Measure 9 was," said Balboa. "We're gonna have to fight tooth and nail one more time."