Merkley snags a 3rd LGBT group's endorsement

Kevin Kamberg

eQualityGiving has just endorsed Jeff Merkley for Senate. The move appears to be a slight distancing of the LGBT group from Steve Novick whom eQuality Giving endorsed back in early February. The two candidates now share the endorsement.

This move by eQualityGiving comes on the heels of Just Out magazine's solo endorsement of Jeff Merkley and the Basic Rights Oregon solo endorsement of Merkley shortly before that.

Meanwhile the Oregon LGBT community has got to be pleased that news of their recent annual Basic Rights awards luncheon received international attention from UK Gay News:

PORTLAND, April 24, 2008 – Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and House Speaker Jeff Merkley presented awards at the Basic Rights Education Fund’s 15th Annual Oregonians Against Discrimination Business Leaders Luncheon held yesterday.

The awards recognise those who played a critical role in the 2007 passage of two key laws that gave basic rights to gay men and women – Oregon’s domestic partnership law and a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodation.

With the Oregon Business Association and the Portland Business Alliance, both of whom were given awards, so publically joining with top elected officials in support of the LGBT community, it will be interesting to see how and if Gordon Smith chooses to react.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    I may disagree here, not knowing all of their internal motives. The endorsement could also represent the fact that Jeff Merkley's got a great record on equality, and it took them seeing endorsements from Just Out and BRO to realize it.

    Either way, this just continues to show that Jeff's got some great equal-rights cred!

  • (Show?)

    You're right, Ben, we can only guess at their internal motives. Note, however, that I didn't say that they'd rejected Novick. It seems to me that a move from a solo endorsement to a co-endorsement is pretty much a slight distancing by definition.

    That said, I think the larger story here is the box this appears to force Smith into. If it were just Democrats then he'd have an easy time of it. But the trifecta of business, Dems and LGBT places him in a tough spot because he won't want to diss Oregon businesses.

  • (Show?)

    That's an excellent point Kevin, and that sounds perfectly fair to me.

    And you're also 100% about Smith. But, you never know: he might be willing to do anything to get re-elected, or burn whatever bridges (or tell whatever lies) are necessary.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    However you interpret this inside baseball, I for one am glad that we have two candidates who support marriage equality and full, equal rights for members of the GLTBQ community.

    I am also excited that Jeff Merkley has the ringing endorsements of Just Out and Basic Rights Oregon, which will quickly dispel the myth that Gordon Smith is good on sexual minority issues (like hate crime legislation).

  • (Show?)

    They bought Merkley's bullshit! But I think they had to relax their requirements in order to do so; they no longer appear to require marriage equality to get the endorsement.

    Kevin, do you think Susan Castillo's endorsement of Novick distances herself from Jeff Merkley, who she's also endorsed*? I'm trying to see if you truly don't understand what dual endorsements are, or you're just trying your ridiculous spin again.

    Let's review Merkley's belief that gays should get married in a church, not a courthouse:

    WW: What is your position on gay marriage? Merkley: I support gay marriage and I support marriage equality. WW: Have you always supported gay marriage? M: I believe I have. WW: But... I just want to read this statement from the 2004 cycle when you spoke to the Oregonian - you know they did the typical what are your positions - you said "I believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between a couple and God and is bes addressed through one's church or other religious home. That doesn't seem to be consistent with supporting gay marriage." M: It's completely consistent, actually. I feel like when we have a couple that is married here in our state, you're married because you have a covenant with your partner and you have a covenant with your God. Uh, and if you cross state lines, you're still married even if that state doesn't, doesn't recognize you. And, uh, you, this is true for our gay and lesbian partnerships as well as heterosexual partnerships. WW: But.., maybe I'm misunderstanding, because if you say you favor gay marriage, it sounds like, do you support a legalization of gay marriage through government means? M: Yes, I certainly do. WW: Because, that doesn't seem to be consistent with saying that it's a sacred covenant between a couple and God and best addressed through one';s church or other religious home. That seems to eliminate {Merkley speaks over interviewer}

    *and last time I looked, the Merkley campaign was still failing to note the dual endorsement, despite being told of the error.

  • (Show?)

    Just to expand briefly on my earlier comment...

    Let's say that Novick wins the Primary. I don't think he will but for the sake of the argument let's just say that he does. The situation for Smith doesn't really change. He's still in the same fundamental bind either way. He's still going to have to avoid dissing Oregon businesses, and that political reality is going to make it very difficult for him push back in any way against equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    But...Smith opposes the murder of Matthew Shephard!

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    TJ, you placed your end quotes in the wrong sentence on that key statement in the interview.

    It's this:

    bold = correct [italics] = incorrect

    WW: But... I just want to read this statement from the 2004 cycle when you spoke to the Oregonian - you know they did the typical what are your positions - you said "I believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between a couple and God and is bes addressed through one's church or other religious home." That doesn't seem to be consistent with supporting gay marriage.["]

    The sentence 'that doesn't seem to be consistent' comes from the WW interviewer, not Jeff's 2004 statement.

  • (Show?)

    you're right, jack. That's actually Jenni's transcript that I pasted, but thanks for correcting the error.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    Furthermore, TJ, eQuality Giving still requires a candidate's support for Full Equality (including Civil Marriage) for an endorsement.

    Jeff Merkley is an 'Endorsed Candidate to Fund'--the highest ranking from eQuality Giving.

    From that site:

    1. ENDORSED CANDIDATES TO FUND

    These are the candidates who meet all of following criteria:

    1. Running for federal or statewide office
    2. Publicly support all Equality Goals (one of which is Civil Marriage)
    3. Competitive in their race (within 10 points of the opponent)
    4. Any party affiliation, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • (Show?)

    those appear to be new guidelines; my recollection when Novick was endorsed was that they fltly states you have to support marriage equality. Now however, when you go to that goal (#4), you'll see there are interim goals, which include DPs and DOMA.

    In other words, if you are on the path they give it to you. As I say, from my memory that is a relaxed standard. I'm attempting to find out.

  • Curtis (unverified)
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    Merkely for Senate.

    HILLARY for PRESIDENT!

  • (Show?)

    This is hilarious. Merkley unequivocally supports gay marriage. For weeks Torridjoe has been claiming that him saying that wasn't enough and the true test was the eQuality Giving endorsement. Then eQuality Giving co endorses Merkley and all of a sudden according to TJ eQuality Giving sucks. LOL thats some serious spin.

    I think the real LGBTQ org that matters is BRO theyve been around longer and have been fighting the good fight on the ground in Oregon making a difference in peoples lives. They are in a far better position to judge the race

  • (Show?)

    Kevin, I don't know about the "slight distancing" bit. It seems to me that a group dedicated to a certain issue would want to embrace any candidate who supports that issue.

    I may be betraying a certain hippie background, but here goes: if I'm friends with Bob, and find out that I really like you too, it doesn't "distance" me from Bob. That's not how "sharing the love" works.

    (I have no special insight on this particular issue, beyond assurances from people I trust that Novick's commitment to marriage equality is rock solid. And I will forcefully disavow any personal hippiness if my words are repeated back to me!)

  • (Show?)

    It's hard to argue with the fact that initially eQuality endorsed only Novick.

    (The link, courtesy of JustOut, is here.)

    So either, 1) Merkley changed his position, or 2) eQuality changed its standard for an endorsement. (Or 3) both.)

    My understanding is the eQuality changed its standard for an endorsement. (It also seems that Merkley has shifted his position on same-sex marriage at least a "little bit."

    Looks like it's #3.

  • (Show?)

    Curtis wrote: "Merkely for Senate. HILLARY for PRESIDENT!"

    I agree on the first part, but why Hillary?

    Hillary Clinton continues to openly support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, signed into law by Bill Clinton), to the extent it overrules the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia. In her view, DOMA should be maintained to grant State's rights to discriminate against a marriage from another State, if the couple happens to be lesbian or gay.

    In his Open Letter to Gay Americans, Barack Obama called - very publicly - for full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and laid out a clear record of proven support for our full equality.

    Any LGBTQ person or ally needs to read Barack Obama's open letter before deciding which candidate they support (even if Chelsea did look fierce at the Red Dress party.)

  • (Show?)

    Curtis wrote: "Merkely for Senate. HILLARY for PRESIDENT!"

    I agree on the first part, but why Hillary?

    Hillary Clinton continues to openly support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, signed into law by Bill Clinton), to the extent it overrules the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia. In her view, DOMA should be maintained to grant State's rights to discriminate against a marriage from another State, if the couple happens to be lesbian or gay.

    In his Open Letter to Gay Americans, Barack Obama called - very publicly - for full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and laid out a clear record of proven support for our full equality.

    Any LGBTQ person or ally needs to read Barack Obama's open letter before deciding which candidate they support (even if Chelsea did look fierce at the Red Dress party.)

  • Lou (unverified)
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    I do not want to diminish the value and importance of groups organized around marriage equality and homosexual advocacy, but I think that it is important that some things are recognized. The majority of the Democrats who will make a difference in this Senate race are not affiliated with Basic Rights Oregon and do not read Just Out magazine. These endorsements are important and demonstrate that the Democratic Party is the party of homosexual advocacy, but they are not pivotal to swinging the electorate. I see some of this discussion being just another example of Merkley backers grasping for affirmation. On the other hand, there are 40,000 union teachers and education employees, straight and gay, who are currently receiving campaign literature and it has Steve Novick's name on it.

  • (Show?)

    You make a valid point, Lou.

    On the other hand, there are 40,000 union teachers and education employees, straight and gay, who are currently receiving campaign literature and it has Steve Novick's name on it.

    True enough. By the same token there are some 240,000 union teachers, nurses, office workers, janitors, engineers, electricians, carpenters, cabinet makers, steelworkers, truck drivers, childcare providers etc, both gay and straight, who are currently receiving campaign literature with Jeff Merkley's name on it. In addition there are some 24,000 members of the Sierra Club similarly receiving literature with Jeff Merkley's name on it.

    What was that you were saying about grasping for affirmation?

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)
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    "The majority of the Democrats who will make a difference in this Senate race are not affiliated with Basic Rights Oregon and do not read Just Out magazine."

    You're quite right. The majority of Democrats are not affiliated with Basic Rights Oregon nor do they probably read JustOut. Although I suspect that many do read JustOut because it is a publication that resonates with one of the largest minority groups in Oregon. A demographic of amazingly loyal democratic voters with a high voter turn out rate, not only here in Oregon but across the country.

    Also you're correct, these endorsements are important, but not because of the reason you describe as demonstrating that the democratic party is the party of homosexual advocacy.

    These endorsements go far beyond that limited scope. These important endorsements demonstrate that the democratic party is the party that truly and credibly values the rights and freedoms of all Americans on a myriad of issues that affect everyone.

    I also take exception to the statement that these voters are not pivotal to swinging the electorate. One needs only to look at just how many races are so close that every single votes counts. Your insinuation, in one swoop of the keyboard, reflects your personal minimization and disenfranchisement of an entire important block of loyal and effective constituents.

    These endorsements are not the desperate grasps of Merkley supporters yearning for affirmation. Nor are the endorsements any less important than your union of 40,000 members. In fact if you want to talk about numbers, look at the 2006 Primary voter registration totals. If the GLBT population is just 2.5% of the registered voters then endorsements by the GLBT community would have represented and reached over 49,000 voters in 2006. We can easily guess that the GLBT population in Oregon is much higher than just 2.5% and more likely a conserevative 5% of the registered voters in Oregon. Which would dwarf your 40,000 union collegues by over twice as much (a clearly pivotal group at 98,297). Also, according to JustOut's website their readership is 45,000+.

    So now who is actually and factually grasping for affirmation?

    I would also like to point out that, while I had no hand in the endorsement process of either Basic Rights Oregon nor JustOut, I think it might be safe to suggest that their endorsements were most likely influenced by the fact that the Oregon legislature, lead by a majority of democrats, actually produced on their campaign promises to this important minority constituency. Speaker Merkley played a significant role in carrying the water and doing the heavy lifting. During all of the previous campaigns, Measure 36, SB1000, and others I really don't see Mr. Novick playing a prominent or significant leadership role. I am certain that had he been in the position, he would have probably been as supportive. But he was not there or atleast not in the position to influence the legislation as Jeff Merkely was.

    In the end, I believe its really good that your union has endorsed a fine democratic candidate. But I doubt you are doing yourself any favors by minimizing the endorsement of another fine democratic candidate other than yours by other progressive and important constituencies.

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "The majority of the Democrats who will make a difference in this Senate race are not affiliated with Basic Rights Oregon and do not read Just Out magazine."

    You're quite right. The majority of Democrats are not affiliated with Basic Rights Oregon nor do they probably read JustOut. Although I suspect that many do read JustOut because it is a publication that resonates with one of the largest minority groups in Oregon. A demographic of amazingly loyal democratic voters with a high voter turn out rate, not only here in Oregon but across the country.

    Also you're correct, these endorsements are important, but not because of the reason you describe as demonstrating that the democratic party is the party of homosexual advocacy.

    These endorsements go far beyond that limited scope. These important endorsements demonstrate that the democratic party is the party that truly and credibly values the rights and freedoms of all Americans on a myriad of issues that affect everyone.

    I also take exception to the statement that these voters are not pivotal to swinging the electorate. One needs only to look at just how many races are so close that every single votes counts. Your insinuation, in one swoop of the keyboard, reflects your personal minimization and disenfranchisement of an entire important block of loyal and effective constituents.

    These endorsements are not the desperate grasps of Merkley supporters yearning for affirmation. Nor are the endorsements any less important than your union of 40,000 members. In fact if you want to talk about numbers, look at the 2006 Primary voter registration totals. If the GLBT population is just 2.5% of the registered voters then endorsements by the GLBT community would have represented and reached over 49,000 voters in 2006. We can easily guess that the GLBT population in Oregon is much higher than just 2.5% and more likely a conserevative 5% of the registered voters in Oregon. Which would dwarf your 40,000 union collegues by over twice as much (a clearly pivotal group at 98,297). Also, according to JustOut's website their readership is 45,000+.

    So now who is actually and factually grasping for affirmation?

    I would also like to point out that, while I had no hand in the endorsement process of either Basic Rights Oregon nor JustOut, I think it might be safe to suggest that their endorsements were most likely influenced by the fact that the Oregon legislature, lead by a majority of democrats, actually produced on their campaign promises to this important minority constituency. Speaker Merkley played a significant role in carrying the water and doing the heavy lifting. During all of the previous campaigns, Measure 36, SB1000, and others I really don't see Mr. Novick playing a prominent or significant leadership role. I am certain that had he been in the position, he would have probably been as supportive. But he was not there or atleast not in the position to influence the legislation as Jeff Merkely was.

    In the end, I believe its really good that your union has endorsed a fine democratic candidate. But I doubt you are doing yourself any favors by minimizing the endorsement of another fine democratic candidate other than yours by other progressive and important constituencies.

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)
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    They bought Merkley's bullshit! But I think they had to relax their requirements in order to do so; they no longer appear to require marriage equality to get the endorsement.

    I'm a little hesitant to respond to this as I really don't want to suffer the wrath that will surely follow. Also, I am not a Merkley staffer nor do I speak for him. I simply have had an opportunity to speak with Jeff Merkely and actually listened to what he has said consistently regarding same sex marriage. Quite frankly, the only reason I speak up now is that I really feel like this is being twisted into something it is definitely not.

    If I am tracking correctly and not in another realm of reality, my comprehension of what Jeff Merkley has said is that the word marriage should strictly pertain to a religious sacrament or ritual dependent on the particular sect or church doctrine. The government should have no say or influence in a religious belief, rite, ritual, sacrament, or doctrine.

    What the state/government should be doing is making the governmental legal rights and privileges of what we have been calling "marriage" available to everyone equally. (Emphasis on the period in that sentence)

    In other words thereby making all civil marriages equal. If two people wish to have that civil marriage further solemnized by their religious faith, so be it.

    We can split hairs all day long, but that is marriage equality. The playing field would be level and equal for everyone in regards to the rights and privileges granted by law. We would not have a separate but equal situation as religion would be taken out of the equation, free to define marriage as they see fit.

    I don't see where that is inconsistent or bullshit?

  • Lou (unverified)
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    Laura Calvo--I think you make some very important points. None probably more important than the assertion that every vote counts.

    For the record, I do support Novick so I guess I can take ownership of him as "my" candidate, but I am not a member of the teacher's union. My primary intention in refering to the union endorsement was to indicate that the union has members in every corner of the state and that their endorsement has the potential, at least in theory, to reach a wide range of folks. I also recognize Kevin's point that Merkley has racked up some formidable union endorsements.

    In the end, I am glad that we have two candidates with positive stances on GLBT issues to choose from. My sentiments towards Merkley and his supporters do not stem from this particular thread, though, but more so from a frustration that he needs to do more to convey his postive attributes to the voters than just rack up endorsements and "want to win."

  • (Show?)

    Laura, I get what you're saying, but the fuller meaning of it is troubling. If Jeff Merkley really wants to abolish civil marriage and deny "marriage" to unchurched couples, that's a VERY radical proposal, one he has not had the nerve to make explicitly. It would mean that over 1000 Federal rights and benefits (currently for those legally married) would have to be redefined by Congress, plus all the insurance and other contracts that pay benefits only to spouses. Simpler to let folks be "married."

  • (Show?)

    I'm on my Blackberry and subject to a strict character limit per response, so I'll come back later with a more complete response including links (after the OLCV dinner, which is tonight).

  • (Show?)
    We can split hairs all day long, but that is marriage equality. The playing field would be level and equal for everyone in regards to the rights and privileges granted by law. We would not have a separate but equal situation as religion would be taken out of the equation, free to define marriage as they see fit. I don't see where that is inconsistent or bullshit?

    It's inconsistent because you can't favor gay civil marriage, and then say you don't favor ANY civil marriages, "gay" or "straight." (It's always a little stupid to refer to gay marriage; if you allow them the right to obtain a marriage license, it would just be "marriage," not gay or straight. But for understandable shorthand, I'll stick with the phrase).

    Merkley's "equal solution" is similar to that used by Virginia in the Loving case, to prevent interracial marriage. Because whites couldn't marry blacks either, they said, how can blacks complain about not being able to marry whites? See, it's equal! Equality was reached by leveling down.

    That's what Merkley wants to do with marriage--level it down so NO ONE gets a civil marriage license, rather than leveling up, and extending the privilege to same sex couples just like straight couples.

    So Merkley's solution is to make things fair by taking away MY civil marriage license. No thank you. It's much simpler, and much more logical, to simply extend the right to those couples who should have always had that right--two unrelated, consenting unmarried adults, of whatever preference.

  • Fair and Balanced (unverified)
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    This hairsplitting gets tiresome sometimes.

    What I take from Merkley's comments is simply that "marriage" should be a religious rite, and that the government should stay totally out of it. Instead, all governmental bodies should base rights and incentives on a legal agreement made between domestic partners, whatever it's called (just not "marriage"). Nothing gets taken away because the rights and incentives are available to anyone who signs the correct legal documents. If you also want to be able to say you are "married" then you need to get your personal religious authority to perform the ceremony (not much of a barrier to Universal Life "church" members).

    The arguments arise when people come at the topic with different assumptions about what "is" or "should be." For Merkley's position to win out, we would need Federal and state legislation to "divorce" "marriage" from the legal stuff.

  • Fair and Balanced (unverified)
    (Show?)

    BTW, in case you didn't see it, the Register Guard published a strong endorsement of Merkley last Saturday.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: torridjoe | Apr 24, 2008 4:06:31 PM They bought Merkley's bullshit! But I think...

    As someone pointed out today over at TPM which may be instructive. In Texas, they have a bird called a grackle that's common to the South and Southwest. There's a story in Texas political circles -- probably apocryphal and usually applied to the opposition -- that grackles don't build their own nests. Instead, they take over other birds nests by crapping in them until they're not fit to live in by anyone but a grackle.

    I've seen a lot of grackle behavior in any blog posting that is postive about Merkley from the usual cohort of Novick grackles, particularly by TJ, Vard (aka Portlandia) and crew. The way these blog grackles work is someone puts up a blog with something good to say about Merkley. Right away, the grackles move in, hijacking the comment thread with criticism and insults directed at their candidate's opponent, the post and the post's author.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Lou | Apr 25, 2008 10:58:26 AM These endorsements are important and demonstrate that the Democratic Party is the party of homosexual advocacy...

    Homosexual advocacy?

    Weird way to phrase it, it's not like Democrats are advocating that homosexuality is compulsory, just that the laws don't discriminate against non-heterosexuals.

  • (Show?)
    What I take from Merkley's comments is simply that "marriage" should be a religious rite, and that the government should stay totally out of it. Instead, all governmental bodies should base rights and incentives on a legal agreement made between domestic partners, whatever it's called (just not "marriage").

    Close, but not quite. Merkley supports fully equal legal rights for everyone, including calling it "marriage." eQualityGiving won't give a candidate their top level endorsement without it, as Jack Murray pointed out upthread.

    Merkley may (or may not) prefer to send "marriage" back to the sole domain of organized religions where it came from - that would be my personal preference in a perfect world. But he clearly isn't willing to make the perfect the enemy of the good, especially given how muddied the religious basis of marriage has become.

  • (Show?)
    For Merkley's position to win out, we would need Federal and state legislation to "divorce" "marriage" from the legal stuff.

    This is the crux of the problem.

    Not only does "marriage" constitute the sole qualification for over 1000 Federal rights, privileges, and benefits, as I said earlier, it is the basis for countless rights under common law, state statutes, and private contracts like insurance policies.

    In order to abolish civil marriage and just give everyone "domestic partnerships," while maintaining an equitable society and avoiding a First Amendment problem (establishment of religion if only churches could "marry" people) .... you would have to enact a raft of state and federal legislation to achieve substantive equality. BUT you still would not have full equality because the institution of marriage, which is one of society's most cherished and aspired-to, would be foreclosed to unchurched couples. Here's a link to a diary I wrote on Loaded Orygun that contains some other links that are illuminating.

    Lots of straight couples (including my husband and me) have "only" civil marriages, performed by a judge or another public official. We can have them because we are one-man-one-woman couples. Why is it OK to make the whole secular universe ineligible for the satisfactions of being married? Isn't it better and simpler AND more truly egalitarian to simply open up marriage to everyone?

    Jeff Merkley gave us a peek into his reasoning when he said he viewed marriage as a covenant with God. Well, it often can be that, but it is also a civil contract. In the United States of America, as long as we cling to our Bill of Rights, the laws of God shouldn't determine who is allowed to be married. That right should be open to all. It's between Jeff Merkley and his conscience to believe that marriage is a covenant with God and everyone else should have a domestic partnership. But I have a more expansive view. I think marriage as an institution is big enough for all of us.

    I'm glad Merkley wants to give same sex couples the legal protections of marriage. Having said that, I'm very sorry that he chooses a treacherous, convoluted "separate but equal" path to that goal.

    And if Jeff Merkley TRULY advocates the abolition of civil marriage, he needs to have the courage to so state openly. I would welcome THAT debate.

    Bottom line: if it isn't marriage, it isn't equal.

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