Freedom to Marry: How Oregon will be next

By Mark Knutson of Portland, Oregon. Rev. W.J Mark Knutson has been pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church for more than 15 years.

Some were laughing. Others were crying. A few of us were holding back tears. It was a monumental moment, and one that I will never forget: more than 1,000 people, crammed into Terry Schrunk Plaza in Portland, celebrating the recent U.S. Supreme Court victories about marriage. Other rallies were held in Eugene and Ashland, and people all around the state were rejoicing.

As a chief petitioner of the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative, I had the honor of closing out the event in Portland. Although I'm excited to move forward, I'm also aware of how much work we have to do. A growing majority of Oregonians support marriage for all loving and committed couples. The court decisions add to our momentum. But we still don't have marriage for same sex couples in Oregon, and the margin of support is slim. Our families and loved ones will be up for a vote and attacked in political ads. A loss would be devastating.

Fortunately, Basic Rights Oregon, along with numerous stakeholders, have put a lot of thought into how we should move forward. Basic Rights Oregon has listened to and had conversations with many groups: volunteers, families, donors, lawyers, elected officials, people of color, people of faith, congregations, nonprofits, political groups, labor groups, LGBT groups, advocacy organizations, businesses, members of diverse communities. We're forming a broad coalition of stakeholders and individuals who make this important work possible -- and have their families on the line. The consensus on what to do next is clear. The fastest and most certain way forward is through a petition and a vote.

Other options are slower and less certain. Our past experience in Oregon shows that going through the courts is slow and that we could lose. Unlike a legislative referral, the petition process allows us to develop leaders and supporters, moving forward in a way that helps us prepare for a tough campaign. This important grassroots process also builds capacity for other vital justice and equity work, whether it be for restoring the full strength of the Voting Rights Act or advocating for our most vulnerable children and youth. This work requires energized and diverse coalitions. I look forward to talking to my friends and neighbors about why marriage matters, and I am excited that a victory would make Oregon the first state in the county to enshrine the freedom to marry in the state Constitution.

To do that, we need to start gathering the 116,284 valid signatures. That involves getting signatures from enough people to fill the Rose Garden Arena six times. Today Basic Rights Oregon announced the signature gathering campaign will start July 20. It's a tremendous opportunity for volunteers to organize and prepare themselves for the campaign and to practice having the kind of person-to-person, heart-to-heart conversations that are crucial to changing the hearts and minds of Oregonians and winning the freedom to marry. The mobilization now will make it easier to win the campaign later.

July 20 is just weeks away. The signature gathering launch will start, simultaneously, in places all over the state. Oregon United for Marriage will also launch a web-based signature gathering site. Get involved by signing up at

This has been years in the making. Now it's Oregon's turn.

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