Just last week, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed two landmark bills into law: One would allow same-sex couples in Oregon to register as domestic partners, with all of the state rights and responsibilities usually reserved for married couples. The other outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
But if three men from Southern Oregon get their wish, voters could nix both laws before they even go into effect.
"The impression and perception that people had when they voted on Measure 36 back in  was that it prevented what the legislature did with these bills," explains Jack Brown, one of the three men who filed documents with the Oregon Secretary of State on Monday, May 14—the first step before they can begin collecting the 55,179 signatures needed to refer each law to the November 2008 ballot.
Brown, chair of the state's Constitution Party, and an auto mechanic in Grants Pass, says the effort to refer the laws is "kind of a bipartisan" one. He doesn't think they'll have any problem collecting the signatures. The group's deadline is 90 days after the end of the legislative session.
Brown also argues that the domestic partnership law—the Family Fairness Act—is "not fair."
"It only grants a limited group of people a bunch of privileges that normally were obtained by marriage and ignores other people that are just as deserving," like sisters who live together, he says. "Those are the two reasons: It's not fair, and it is doing what the voters thought they were saying don't do."
Meanwhile, a group called "Defense of Marriage and Family Coalition, Again!" headed up by former state Senator Marylin Shannon, is also planning to file to collect signatures to refer the laws to the ballot.
Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), who advocated for both laws' passage, is already gearing up to fight the referendum effort. "Of course we'll be encouraging folks not to sign. And we are in the process of putting together the early stages of our own campaign plan," says BRO spokesperson Melissa Chernaik.
"It's not a surprise, but it's just such a shame. These are really important protections that have been hard fought, and a long time coming. They should be going into effect at the beginning of next year. Instead, we'll have to endure a brutal, expensive campaign that will delay the protections."