Why do we need legislation in Oregon that protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and that creates domestic partnerships for same-sex couples? This commentary from the Portland Mercury about the public hearings for SB 2 says it all:
But those who were opposing the bill—many at the behest of the conservative Oregon Family Council (OFC)—unwittingly did a better job of making the case for the anti-discrimination law, by trotting out thinly veiled insults against gays and citing "evidence" that homosexuality is immoral, "harmful," and "destructive." …
Nick Graham, OFC's communications director, was one of two invited speakers opposed to the bill (five members of the governor's Taskforce on Equality, which recommended the bill, spoke in favor of it; public testimony followed the invited testimony). Graham stuck to the OFC's talking points, claiming the bill's exemptions for religious organizations and churches weren't strong enough, the law would prompt frivolous lawsuits against businesses, and that sexual orientation shouldn't be granted minority status (OFC's "reasons to oppose SB2" say that gays meet "none of" the qualifications for minority status, which include being politically powerless; apparently the OFC believes that things like Measure 36's passage and the decades-long legislative fight to pass an anti-discrimination bill demonstrate gays' political power). Graham tried to have it both ways, simultaneously arguing there was very little discrimination in Oregon to begin with, making the law unnecessary, and that the anti-discrimination bill would be a huge burden on the state.
And from the House floor Tuesday (courtesy of Willamette Week):
After Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) said gays were more likely to commit crimes against children, Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) rose in protest. Kotek, who's lesbian, told Richardson to stop defaming her character.
The opposition's arguments simply had no basis in logic or fact. These clearly unsupportable assertions were the best they had. And they know that we know that they know that their assertions are unsupportable - and yet they still attempted to present them as legitimate arguments. As long as there are those who are so determined to discriminate on such an unfounded basis, SB 2 and HB 2007 are needed.
More from Willamette Week:
Meantime, here's one from the "rich with irony" department: House pages tried to block Aimee Wilson, the partner of Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland), from being on the floor during the debate because she wasn't a family member. Wilson eventually made it on the floor.
There is one more item related to today's events that I wanted to close the loop on. Previously, the Oregon Family Council had been pushing to amend HB 2007 to add "reciprocal benefits" for other kinds of domestic partnerships that would not be eligible for marriage - for example, sisters jointly operating a household. I wasn't aware that there were so many two-sister households pushing for domestic partnership status in Oregon. Did they ask OFC to advocate for them? As I wanted clarification, I called OFC for an explanation - are you against this bill, or do you just want it amended? Is the amendment bona fide, or just for a dilatory purpose?
The person who I spoke to at the OFC said that the OFC opposes the bill, and does not just want it amended. I asked about the OFC's prior statements regarding Measure 36 and civil unions (i.e., pass Measure 36, defining marriage as one man and one woman, and you can always go back to the legislature for civil unions later). I was told: "That didn't mean that we would not oppose civil unions." I have to admit for a second I didn't know what to say. I was astounded. I had merely called to understand the OFC's position vis-à-vis the two-sister domestic partnership, but after that comment I informed the OFC rep that I intended to report that statement here at BlueOregon because it was simply outrageous. "Well, I wish you had told me that at the beginning of the conversation." Well, I wish the OFC had been more honest with the public then I wouldn't need to report it.
“If same-sex couples need legal protection, they should consult their legislative representatives. If they need legislation to do that, no one is going to stand in their way.” Defense of Marriage Coalition Executive Director Mike White, Lincoln City News Guard, 11/10/2004
Unfortunately, we all know what comes next. The state of Oregon will be papered from one end to the other with ludicrous political fliers. Those politicians supporting civil union legislation in previous sessions, such as Jeff Merkley, were targeted relentlessly by the Oregon Family Council during the 2006 campaign. (For purposes of reviewing the article at the link, keep in mind that the Defense of Marriage Coalition was founded by the Oregon Family Council.)
What to do about these fliers, which are the menace of Oregon political campaigns? To make matters worse, these fliers are sometimes designed to appear as if they were generated by an independent activist without any sort of political agenda, in order to obfuscate another party's participation in the campaign. We need to be much more methodical about collecting these fliers, researching them and holding those behind them responsible for the accuracy of their content.* Perhaps we need some sort of "debunking" website, where we post copies of these fliers and we document who produced them and paid for them. Anyone in the state could access this site, and hopefully most voters would soon become aware of who is behind the "bunk" that clogs their mailboxes.
*LoadedOrygun did a superb job of this in 2006, however, it's a huge task that probably deserves a dedicated website and a massive support team.
Let's support our legislators who are doing the right thing in Salem. Any other ideas to fight these fliers?