With the fight for marriage equality in Oregon firmly in the hands of a federal court—and looking like it might turn out favorably—the advocates who'd been ready to hit the ballot on same-sex marriage this fall announced plans today for a fresh effort.
They'll be taking on the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative—a measure that would enshrine discrimination by letting businesses withhold services that might be used for not only same-sex marriages but also civil unions. The new campaign, called Oregon United Against Discrimination, is a sibling of sorts to the marriage campaign, Oregon United for Marriage, and will rely on the same organizers and donors and endorsers.
And timing is everything. The discrimination measure, backed by the Oregon Family Council, is expected to win clearance for signature gathering at some point this month—and would need nearly 90,000 signatures by July 3 to make the November ballot.
Oregon United Against Discrimination is starting up now to make sure that never happens, launching its first advertisement this morning.
I wrote a bit about the discrimination measure back in February, when state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum put a nail in the coffin of Oregon's marriage ban by announcing she'd refuse to defend it in court. Even then, it was looming as a threat. Discussions about discrimination started after the state punished a Gresham bakery that refused a cake for a same-sex couple, and they've intensified in recent weeks after the owner of a twee Sellwood produce market said she wished she could refuse service to LGBT customers, even though she said she wouldn't.
The measure is among a handful of attempts nationally to seek legal limits on discrimination in the name of religion—sweeping bills in Arizona and Kansas being more infamous examples.
And Oregon's is the only one that would actually go before voters—making it a bellwether that, if it's successful, could be repeated in other states.
The campaign against the measure, in a release today, pointed to a Washington Post poll that says 81 percent of respondents nationally oppose such discrimination. The campaign also reminds us that 55 percent of Oregonians now say they support marriage equality.