A quandary: following up

Carla Axtman

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.

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.

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    Carla, I am so glad you and Greg were able to get together to discuss his opinions on the two issues that were keeping you from voting for him

    You conversation with him mirrored my own, so it is good to see consistency in his responses. However, I have the original copy of the Oregon Family Council Voter Guide sitting right in front of me and I attest to the fact that he did not answer the "marriage" question. I can't help but wonder why it was marked on the online version that you saw, but not the printed one that went out to their membership? Interesting that the Oregon Family Council feels that it can vary the answers of their polls whenever it suits them!

    Finally, I am glad that you discovered that Greg is a candidate worthy of progressive support. I'm betting he will make an outstanding Commissioner for Washington County.

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      Interesting in the different answers on the printed and online questions. This is one reason why I don't trust these types of things. There's always a 'rest of the story' and quite often you don't hear it, only a simple answer to what might turn out to be a trick question.

      Thanks Carla for posting your follow up. Lots of times you never really know exactly where a person stands on an issue. Personally, I agree with Greg on the marriage issue. I think that the state should only be involved in issues of inheritance, custody, etc. as they regard a relationship. As far as 'marriage', that should be left up to secular and/or religeous non governmental organizations.

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        Is the original article still here? I don't see it...

        Saw something today that went to the mini-debate we were having re: they're not vicious, just define life differently. My position was they want to kill you if you don't conform, totally malicious. This is the kind of thing that makes people like me think so.

        "In another story from Arizona, but one that's attracting less attention than that state's check your documents anti-immigration law, a nun in Phoenix has been ex-communicated after approving a live-saving abortion. Sister Margaret McBride was excommunicated for approving an abortion without which, doctors say, both the woman and her 11-week-old fetus would have died. According to Thomas Olmsted, the Bishop of Phoenix, approving an abortion is an excommunicating offense -period."

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    What we have here is a wonderful example of why complex issues cannot be made into black/white answers.

    Complexity is not a bad thing, despite what political pundits want you to think.

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    Good post and I appreciate the follow-up. I find resonance with his position that all marriage should be civil unions before the govt. and churches or other private organizations or communities can designate what constitutes marriage.It is a consistent approach to separation of church and state.

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    I am reminded of a story Howard Dean told about campaigning in the South. He had just finished giving a speech and was mingling in the crowd. One of the people he met was a woman who said that she liked pretty much everything he had to say, but she couldn't vote for him because he was pro-abortion.

    Dean didn't confront her directly on this matter. Instead he asked her a hypothetical: if her neighbor was pregnant and decided to abort the pregnancy, did she believe that the government should prevent her from getting the abortion? The woman said no. It was a decision she had to make and the government should be involved.

    "Then you are pro-choice", Dean responded.

    The woman vehemently denied it because she vehemently opposed abortions. She may not agree with her neighbors decision, but she did think she should have the right to make it.

    Dean told this story to make the point that there is a lot of confusion on issues that are normally presented as so black and white in the media. Even abortion.

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    Wow. For someone seeking elected office he doesn't seem to have a clue regarding theses two issues.

    Government out of marriage? Really?

    This is a serious person seeking elected office?

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      It actually mirrors my position, to be candid. I don't think government should be in the business of telling us who we can and cannot marry.

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        That makes zero sense at all. There are a myriad valid reasons why civil marriage is needed. From joint property, inheritance, emergency medical decisions, etc.

        Now if you are advocating that we simply make all legal marriages "civil unions" so that bigots and church have some ephemeral exclusive use of the word marriage, that seems to a foolish semantic exercise.

        Aside from the issues of portability across state lines, the rewriting of literal thousands of laws in 50 different states and at the Federal level for starters, it seems like semantic masturbation to be blunt (as is my way of course, wry grin).

        Particularly from a political rhetoric perspective. "These liberals want to end legal marriage." is an attack ad I so look forward to. /snark

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          It makes complete and total sense.

          If two consenting adults want to enter into a legal and binding commitment contract, that's something that the government can regulate. That includes the myriad of reasons you articulated above. Everyone should be entitled to that. All consenting adults have access to it under the law and legally, everyone's contract gets the same name: legal marriage.

          Churches and other religious organizations should not be forced by the government to conduct or honor such unions. If those institutions want to have oversight of their membership and how those consenting members manage their unions, that's between them and the members. But religious institutions should have no say in how public policy and law handle and view legal marriage.

          Lots of public policy is difficult and especially at the federal level can be glacial in moving. If states want to take the lead in recognizing legal marriage, they should.

          And then they presumably they can enter into agreements with other states that recognize same-sex legal marriages to have them recognized across their state lines.

          I've never been particularly susceptible to the argument "we shouldn't do it because its difficult and complicated". Frankly, that's a cop out. It's the right thing to do. And we need to do it.

          Yes..hyperbolic right wing authoritarian control freaks will air attack ads. But rhetorically, the message that churches should stay out of government and vice-versa resonates with a lot more Oregonians than not, I suspect. And the "these conservatives want to deny equal rights to all citizens" isn't so hot for the winger crowd either.

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            that is exactly my point. We have that now, it is called legal marriage. The problem is we discriminate based on gender which must be ended. No church is ever forced to recognize or perform any marriage at all.

            Go try and get married in a Catholic Church if you are a divorced atheist trying to marry a Jewish person.

            The whole "leave marriage to the church" argument is a semantic nonsense.

            I am not advocating that we not do things because they are hard. I am 100% for doing the hard thing and simply ending gender discrimination in legal marriage, and the Catholic Church, and any other church can continue to not perform marriages in their church for whatever reason(s) they feel compel them not to do so.

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      Really? Why would that be a bad thing?

      So, we have government-sanctioned civil unions, which address tax status, property rights, and all the rest of the legal issues, and churches are left to address the sacrament of marriage as they each see fit. Government would respect all civil liberties, and churches would be free to allow or disallow hetero- or homo-sexual marriages, poly-amorous marriages or whatever else, because it would have no legal status. Why is that a bad thing?

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        Following up: The same would hold in reverse for "divorce" and "dissolution of a union". Interesting on how that might affect a straight couple wanting to "divorce" but belonging to a Church which doesn't approve of such.

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        That's what we have currently. It is called civil marriage. The religious ceremony confers no legal status. It is the registering of the marriage with the state that confers the legal status and we allow a priest, rabbi, etc. to act as notary of the state.

        The state does not compel a Catholic church to marry a jew and an atheist (or previously divorced couples) currently. The problem is that we have gender discrimination in marriage law on the books.

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          If it confers no legal status, then why is it in the Oregon Constitution, set aside as a special status for heterosexual couples?

          It is in fact set aside as a legally separate status, even if so-called civil unions provide the same state-conferred rights. It's "separate but equal" policy that gives a particular, special status to heterosexual couples under the law.

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            Carla, all legal marriages are registered with the state. The religious ceremony confers NOTHING in legal terms. This is why minister,s priests, rabbi's etc. still have to sign the back of the license and register it with the state for it to be legally recognized by the state.

            The gender discrimination in denying same-gender couples LEGAL recognition by the state is the problem.

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              I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying.

              I agree that the religious ceremony confers nothing in legal terms.

              I'm saying that under the Oregon Constitution, the only people that can be LEGALLY MARRIED in Oregon are heterosexual couples.

              That's wrong and it must change.

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                I agree 100%. Which is why the "leave marriage to the church" is semantic nonsense.

                Call it an Aardvark if we have to, but legal civil marriage must be open to same-gender and opposite-gender couples alike.

                That is the battle and that is the issue. No church has been, or ever will be forced to perform or recognize any marriage it doesn't choose too. Witness the Catholic Church about marrying non-Catholics, divorcees, etc.

                The whole "keep the government out of the church" is pure fiction. The Government cannot, never has, and never will force any church to marry anyone said church chooses not to.

                What must end is gender discrimination in marriage law.

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                  The discrimination includes "marriage" for some, while having "civil unions" for all.

                  This is a political issue, not just a legal issue. And in political debates, what words are used to describe something frequently matters a great deal.

                  Let the churches have the word "marriage", give the legal system "civil unions".

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                    Yet marriage is a legal definition in law on both Federal and state levels. How can you compel California to treat an Oregon Civil Union the same as civil marriage and at all levels of law and regulations, etc?

                    JHow can you compel a state which has no civil unions laws at all to adopt one and confer/transfer all the legal ciivil rights, reponsibilitiles, obligations, etc. to it that legal marriage does?

                    The "let them have the word" argument is fine in a the abstract (and I cop to it up-thread) but it has real legal relevance because it describes a specific legal status under law.

                    Arguing that we should have to rewrite literally tens of thousands of laws, regulations, etc. so that bigots can have an unenforceable exclusive use of a word, is dubious at best.

                    I would also add that actually ending legal "marriage" is a rhetorical mess to say the least.

                    Simply end gender discrimination in marriage law and be done with it.

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                  If you read that Malinowski told me that we should "leave marriage to the church" then I am indeed a poor writer.

                  What he said was that church should stay out of government and vice versa. And that government's recognition of the civil contract between consenting adults should be the same for everyone whether they're homosexual or heterosexual. Further, churches shouldn't be forced to conduct or recognize unions. In other words, legally recognized marriage should be the same for all. Religiously recognized marriage should be managed by the different religions in whatever way they choose without government interference.

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    Some misinformation has come out today concerning the Oregon Family Council Voter Guide, specifically related to Greg Malinowski’s candidacy for Washington County Commissioner.

    It was mentioned in Blue Oregon today that Mr. Malinowski “had marked an anti-marriage equality position” on the online Voter’s Guide, while a reader commented that in her physical copy of the Voter’s Guide, Greg Malinowski had not answered the “marriage” question. This has understandably created some confusion. However, there has been no discrepancy on our part. Both in print and online, there is no answer listed for Mr. Malinowski for the marriage question in the Voter Guide. Since we include information on so many candidates, Carla Axtman must have accidentally been looking at the line directly underneath Mr. Malinowski’s answers, where another candidate had indeed marked their support for the constitutional definition of marriage.

    We do not take issue with your interpretation of our publication, as we realize not everyone shares our views, but we have no desire or motivation to purposefully misrepresent any candidates’ position.

    We understand that mistakes are made. We go to great lengths to make sure candidates’ answers are presented correctly. Anytime a mistake is clearly made we apologize and fix our error, but in this case no error was made on our part.


    Jack Louman Administrative Director Oregon Family Council

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      Yeah, because your organizations promotion of the Nader candidacy in 2004 was totally on the up and up, right?

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      Mr Louman:

      Thank you for working to clear the confusion.

      You should know however that I'm not the only person who read the online voter's guide for your organization that way. I heard from multiple people who read it the same way.

      Perhaps it might be worth the organization's time and resources to revisit the format.

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    Thanks for the follow up and interesting discussion. Nuance literally means everything. When folks see those ads "Senator Blahblah voted against _", the viewer is NEVER told that _ didn't go far enough, that___ was a procedural vote, or that an an oppositional vote was cast for purposes of reintroduction.

    Too bad most folks will never get to the details like you have.

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    Oh, how about that... I post my above comment, and scan down the page to see that it's posted, and there is an anti-Wyden ad which illustrates my point!

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