My quandary involving Washington County Commission District 2 candidate Greg Malinowski has elicited a myriad of responses. In both public and private settings, people have stepped up to offer their thoughts on the situation.
Rarely have I seen such a broad spectrum of opinions on something I've written. It's spanned from advocacy to completely withdraw any support from Malinowski and disavow him to ignoring his position on choice altogether--and various mixes in between.
Complicating the situation for me yesterday was the actual Oregon Family Council Voter's Guide which finally became widely available on their website. Not only had Greg marked an anti-choice position, he had marked an anti-marriage equality position as well. Again, not an issue that the Washington County Commission will likely ever visit, but nevertheless it's an extremely strong piece of my personal values. Things were looking pretty glum at that point.
Greg and I managed to wrangle our schedules yesterday and find a time in the evening to meet in person to discuss the situation. I walked out the door to the meeting feeling pretty downhearted and dreading what was about to happen. My previous encounters with Greg have all been wonderful and I've walked away fully in support of him. My stomach was in knots knowing that I may have to reverse course if in some way if these positions infringed on his ability to not only be a thoughtful, responsible Commissioner but a future leader in other potential elected jobs as well.
We began by talking about marriage equality. To Greg's credit, I hadn't brought up the subject in advance of our meeting. But he dove right in and began to articulate his position: "The government doesn't have the right to tell two adults that they can't come together and form a union", he said. "The government should be regulating civil unions and marriage should be up to the various religious institutions to manage". Uh...what? At this point, I was really confused. Greg explained that he wanted government out of marriage altogether. But I explained that it was part of the Oregon Constitution that only heterosexual couples could marry. What happens if a church is willing to marry a homosexual couple? Shouldn't they have the ability to do that? He conceded the point. After a little more discussion he said, "You know the point is that we need to have churches staying out of government and government staying out of churches. That's what I'm really trying to say. Everybody needs their civil rights protected."
So in the end, Greg doesn't want to keep gays and lesbians from having marriage equality. He doesn't want the government telling churches what to do and doesn't want churches telling government what to do. And after we talked, he said he'd be absolutely amendable to removing the "one man, one woman" clause from the Constitution.
Note to Basic Rights Oregon: we have some work to do to explain this stuff to rank and file Oregonians. I suspect Malinowski's lack of real understanding of the impact of the Measure 36 clause isn't an anomaly. I also suspect his notion that the government and churches need to stay out of each others way is a common theme amongst Oregonians.
One down, one to go.
Within the context that Malinowski is political neophyte, I found his next comment interesting: "I filled out that Oregon Family Council thing a week into the campaign. My response on abortion was a knee-jerk reaction".
Malinowski said his concerns about abortion stem from some childhood trauma, witnessed from growing up on a farm. He didn't want to go into specific details, but he said that his biggest concern is comprehensive sex education and complete access to contraception. " I support Plan B. It should be readily available and part of every rape kit, too." He went on to say, "Abortion should be the last resort. Other options should be available first."
In other words, he said, abortion shouldn't be used as birth control.
So I asked, "Is it your public policy position that abortion should be illegal?"
Malinowski: "No. As a matter of public policy, it's a medical procedure between a doctor and a woman."
Then why indicate otherwise on the Oregon Family Council form?
"I think we have an obligation to prevent the destruction of life," he said. That's what he had in mind when he marked that part of the form.
Malinowski went on to say that he does not support late term abortions. After viability outside of the womb, to be specific. And if it must be done, it should be only to save the mother's life.
I personally believe that any decision about abortion should always be between a physician and a woman no matter what the circumstances, as with any medical procedure. But I'm not entirely uncomfortable with where Greg is on it. He appears to be thoughtful, compassionate and reasonable on these policies. And he said he's willing to talk to any potential voter about his positions on these and other issues. Further, based on our conversation, he's completely willing to take in new information and adjust his position accordingly when appropriate.
I don't think I can reasonably expect more than that.