Shall we all get on our “way back when” glasses? Let’s all go way back to 1988, when Oregon’s organized anti-gay movement began in force with the passage of Ballot Measure 8, which overturned then-Governor Goldschmidt’s executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in state agencies.
That was the beginning of a string of viscous anti-gay ballot measures that cost fair-minded Oregonians millions of dollars and countless hours of campaigning against hate. In 1992, the growing Oregon Citizen’s Alliance, led by Lon Mabon, placed a measure on the ballot equating homosexuality with, among other things, pedophilia. It failed statewide but spawned a series of successful local measures called the Sons of 9.
More measures followed – Measure 13 in 1994 and another Measure 9 in 2000. The only statewide measure that has been successful in Oregon since 1988 was 2004’s anti-gay marriage Measure 36, which shamefully wrote discrimination into our state constitution. Also in 2004, Karl Rove took a page from Mabon’s playbook, effectively placing anti-gay marriage measures on the ballot in those states in which it was essential for the Far Right to turn out for Bush.
But now, is it over? A recent article in Just Out predicts that for one of the first times in decades, Far Right, anti-gay efforts to secure a place on Oregon’s ballot during a major election will fail. They have no money, the message has run its course, the leaders have been proven to be corrupt buffoons, and the Right is more divided than ever. Are we finally done?
This year, we also saw the roaring power of Oregon's gay rights movement . After a tremendous legislative effort, Governor Kulongoski signed the Oregon Family Fairness Act, extending domestic partnership to same sex couples, as well as Oregon Equality Act, banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
If we are done with electoral assaults, we are left with a silver lining. Oregon has won a well-deserved reputation for creating effective and innovative strategies to fight the Right. In 1998, when I was working for NOW in Washington, DC, I decided to move back to Oregon because this was where it was all happening. I started immediately working for Basic Rights Oregon, which was then and still is one of the largest and most effective statewide gay and lesbian organizations in the country.
Most importantly, the gay and lesbian movement in Oregon helped to teach the rest of the country about the importance of building coalitions across urban/rural, religious, gender, sexual orientation and racial lines. No matter who you were in the state, you knew where you stood. If someone still doesn’t, perhaps they should move out of the cave.
Of course, just because there is no ballot measure does not mean there is no homophobia. Just look at the recent Nike ad. Also, Just Out reports on a new group, Watchmen on the Walls, that has brought together potentially violent homophobes and is now meeting weekly. As progressives, there is no letting down our guard -- we must remain committed to fighting any incarnation of hate, ignorance and oppression.
So, do you agree that the electoral fight is over? What do you think is to come?