Beyond the Ballot in Oregon

Achieving marriage equality in Oregon has been a winding road with many unforeseen turns over the past year—which unexpectedly led us away from taking the fight to the ballot box in November.

In May, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane’s ruling brought the freedom to marry to Oregon and thousands of couples have already gotten married. It was a decisive victory, and the ruling will stand.

As a result, we no longer need to take the initiative to the ballot and have our civil rights put to a vote. The definition in Measure 36 of Oregon’s constitution that says marriage is “between one man and one woman” has been ruled unconstitutional and can no longer be used to discriminate against LGBTQ couples.

Removing the discriminatory language from Measure 36 is important—but now is not the time. Continuing the campaign at this point would be unnecessarily risky (opponents could use it as an opportunity to mobilize their base), expensive (upwards of $6 million), and would require a huge amount of time and commitment from our community.

The moment will come when it is time to remove the problematic language from the constitution—as many states have had to do with state anti-sodomy laws that were also ruled unconsitutional—but in the meantime we have other work to do.

As a movement, we have the opportunity to invest even more of our energy and resources in a number of critical issues that are impacting our community: the staggering rates of bullying and homelessness faced by LGBTQ youth; the lack of healthcare access for trans* individuals and the increasing levels of violence they experience; and ensuring LGBTQ seniors have affirming places to live, among others.

This is the work that Pride Foundation has been doing for nearly 30 years. We will continue to support community leaders and organizations so that together we can tackle the challenges facing LGBTQ Oregonians.

We have won an important battle for legal equality—but there are many more to fight before we achieve true and lasting lived equality.

Katie Carter is Pride Foundation’s regional development organizer in Oregon. Email Katie.

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