Oregon may be next for vote on gay marriage

PORTLAND, Ore. — Supporters of same-sex marriage in Oregon say U.S. Supreme Court decisions Wednesday provide the beachhead for a statewide campaign aimed at overturning the state’s decade-old restrictions in a year when Oregon may be the only state faced with such a choice.

Oregon voters outlawed same-sex marriage in 2004 in an initiated constitutional amendment known as Measure 36.

Jeana Frazzini, leader of Basic Rights Oregon, has organized a campaign to get a measure on the ballot next year to reverse the ban. She says Oregon could be the only state with such a measure in 2014 — putting the state in the spotlight.

Frazzini’s group is readying one of two such similarly-worded measures for a signature drive. The group needs to obtain more than 116,000 signatures to appear on the 2014 ballot.

The ruling from the Supreme Court rejected an argument to extend the recognition of full federal benefits to couples in states, including Oregon, that have laws allowing domestic partnerships and civil unions.

Polling has shown a shift in Oregon on attitudes toward same-sex marriage since 2004. Successful pushes for same-sex marriage in Maryland, Maine and neighboring Washington state — where some Oregon couples have married — emboldened the petitioners before 2014.

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, the first openly lesbian lawmaker to lead a state legislative chamber in the U.S., said the ruling offers hope to same-sex marriage supporters in the state.

“The rulings of the highest court in the land offer support and hope for our efforts to achieve marriage equality in 2014,” Kotek said.

Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a statement calling the decisions “a proud moment for the nation,” but said the state still needed to catch up.

“Oregon has not yet lived up to the ideal of equal rights for all,” Kitzhaber said. “When we talk about the freedom to marry, we’re talking about the basic equality we demand for every person.”

Backers of Measure 36 from the Oregon Family Council, which opposes same-sex marriage didn’t have immediate comment.

Members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation responded quickly to the news. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, posted a picture on Twitter with the Supreme Court’s columns recast in rainbow colors under the phrase “equal justice under law.” Jeff Merkley called the decision “a huge stride forward for equality and fairness.”

Noting that 12 states and Washington, D.C. authorized same-sex marriage in 2013 and Oregon wasn’t among them, Portland mayor Charlie Hales’ office said “We can dare to hope that we will change that” in 2014.

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