Outrage vs. Discrimination

Jason Evans

This past Sunday afternoon, KOIN held a "town hall" meeting on Measure 36. Both sides presented their arguments. The main argument in favor of the measure, from several supporters, was that Multnomah County held secret "back room" meetings and decided to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples without involving the public. They were "forced" to create the amendment, they say, because the Commissioners never allowed them to speak on this issue.

Measure 36's most vocal supporters claim that they don't hate gay people. They claim to be mad at the Multnomah County Commissioners. They are outraged that the public was not brought into the decision making process. They want to try to change that.

So, why are they writing discrimination against gay and lesbian Oregonians into the State's Constitution?

The commissioners will not be adversely affected by the ammendment. Their processes will not be changed. Nothing about Measure 36 addresses the complaints against the commissioners, nor does it propose changes to ensure public participation in such important social issues.

Instead, the measure ensures that committed, partnered gay and lesbian Oregonians will be refused the legal rights bestowed on equally committed male/female couples. We are forced to enter into expensive legal contracts if we wish to have even a small portion of the rights afforded heterosexual couples through marriage such as hospital visitation, inheritance, and partner benefits.

Tax benefits that go along with marriage aren't as important to me as knowing that I have the legal right to protect my partner in the event of an accident.

If you're angry with Multnomah County Commissioners, that's cool. They're public officials. Change the processes and policies that allowed them to make such a grand decision without public input.

If you don't like gay people, that's cool too. We're private people. Don't make discrimination legal against us. We feel, we love, we hurt, we cry, we worry and we rejoice just like the rest of humanity. We're held to the same standards of social behavior as everyone else. We have the same duties to pay our share of taxes. We have to obey the same laws. We also want and need partnerships which are different in appearance from yours.

We deserve the same benefits as all other Americans.

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    Plus, plans for a constitutional amendment were put in motion prior to the County's decision, as a pre-emptive move due to Massachusetts and California. Granted, that initial effort was withdrawn and replaced by what became M36, but it's not like the righteous wing wasn't alreadythinking about doing this beforehand.

  • Jason Evans (unverified)

    Good point, b!x. As you remember, I had an altercation with one of the original sponsors of the anti-gay measures that were originally written. He got real quiet soon thereafter, however.

  • Anthony (unverified)

    Jason is mixing up different arguments.

    Not having been at the meeting, I don't know exactly what was said about it. But I can imagine that Jason misconstrues what was said. Presumably the advocates of Measure 36 are interested in its content, not just procedure. They certainly may have been angry on principle about the kind of fiat exercised by the commissioners even on an issue about which they cared nothing. But the fact that they do care about this issue is obviously a more likely motivator.

    Jason writes: "If you're angry with Multnomah County Commissioners, that's cool. They're public officials. Change the processes and policies that allowed them to make such a grand decision without public input."

    But is that not what is being attempted here?

    Whether right or wrong, tthose promoting Measure 36 are trying to preserve the character of an important institution via democratic means, whereas the commissioners took it upon themselves to make up their minds for everybody else.

    Measure 36 does advocate a kind of discrimination, including against people who wish to have multiple spouses. I don't think that equates to necessarily "not liking" such people or impinging upon their civil rights.

    Also, as far as I can tell, Measure 36 doesn't prevent moving toward civil unions such as would address many of Jason's material concerns.

  • al (unverified)

    <blink>Off topic. That election day countdown is flickery and annoying.</blink>

  • Jesse (unverified)


    I don't think your assessment is exactly correct. While it is clear that marriage is an imbedded institution in American society, it is certainly everchanging. Over 200 years in America we have seen a lifting of bans on non-white marriage, inter-faith marriages, inter-racial marriages, the extension of benefits to wives, and rising divorce, infidelity, domestic abuse and child neglect rates. And the myriad of causes behind this just might be a far more important topic than limiting legal benefits.

    But Measure 36 is, ultimately, not about this institution of marriage. Why? Because the institution of marriage is far larger than the legal benefits afforded to you by the state or federal government. It lives in the larger framework of society and, therefore, should be left to that long and legnthy process that is social dialogue and perhaps change.

    Measure 36 is about the denial of legal rights. There are those that claim it will still leave the door open to civil unions. But civil unions, even at their best, do not provide the same broad recognition in law as marriage. We oughta continue a conversation in Oregon about civil unions and marriage, but I don't think we should put unequal treatment of gays and lesbians into our Constitution, especially without any assurance that their rights will be protected by future legislation.

    The other problem I have with civil unions is that they slam shut the door on the ability of gays and lesbians to ever access federal benefits. And, basically, I think shutting the door on anyone now--denying them rights to visit a partner in the hospital without the threat of losing their job, the ability to pass on social security benefits at death, and the custody of a child at a partners death--just because we may not agree who "owns" the word marriage isn't a just and fair move.

  • (Show?)

    Measure 36 isn't any more-sincere attempt to codify the traditional definition of marriage; it's the same OCA garbage, different flavor, that they introduced back in the day. In fact, there's nothing sincere about the wingnut right with regard to this issue whatsoever.

    What's more, it's so blatantly unConstitutional, that I have this sort of macabre hope for it to pass, for about as long as it takes to get bitch-slapped by the Ninth Circuit, cause you and I both know it would.

    That's why Chimpy McCokespoon is pushing for the Consitutional Amendment - one of these is gonna hit the Supremes, and even if the Felonious Five aren't up against the wall by then, there's no way this passes muster against the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

    I voted No not just because I know this measure is wrong, but also to save ourselves the trouble, the finance, and the embarrassment of its inevitable legal challenge.

    Republicans who were as interested in fiscal responsibility as they tend to whine that they are, should probably think twice about pissing away State money to defend repression.

  • GA - Keith (unverified)

    Also, as far as I can tell, Measure 36 doesn't prevent moving toward civil unions such as would address many of Jason's material concerns.

    Anthony, actually in Alaska the same amendment was used to deny same-sex couples health insurance benefits because the benefits were considered to be "marriage-like". In other states, DOMAs and constitutional amendments have been later cited in lawsuits against state government legislating any "marriage-like" benefits including domestic partnership agreements. This happened with domestic partnership benefits the state extended to same-sex couples.

    There is far more going on here than wanting to "protect marriage" -- too many people involved want also to discriminate against Gay Oregonians.

    And in Massachusetts, John Kerry supported a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage only after it included provisions for civil unions. Constitutional Amendment measure 36 does not include such provisions.

  • PDX voter (unverified)

    The denial of benefits that are considered to be "marriage-like" can adversely affect opposite-gender partners too. My (opposite gender) partner and I have chosen not to buy a marriage license from the state in part because in this country marriage is used as a weapon of hate. We are fortunate to have domestic partner health insurance benefits that cover him while he stays home with our infant children (though because we are not same-gender partners we pay tax on his benefits). If M36 passes, we start going down a slippery slope that could affect families like ours as well.

  • Suzii (unverified)

    Hey, PDX voter, if you were the same sex, you would still pay tax on domestic partner benefits. Whoever told you different is welcome to come pay mine.

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