Following the example of 15 states and the District of Columbia, Oregon citizens want to make marriage equality the law in Oregon. Scores of petitioners are gathering signatures to put the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative on the November 2014 ballot.
If it passes, same sex couples would have the legal right to marry in Oregon.
“In its simplest terms, marriage is a fundamental freedom for all who love each other,” says Peter Zuckerman of Oregon United for Marriage. “This movement is about love and the freedom to marry.”
Unlike states that can alter current law on gay marriage through the legislature or courts, Oregon can only change its definition of marriage through a ballot measure. This is because there is currently a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage here, created by the 2004 passage of Measure 36. At that time 57% of voters defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Salem will see upcoming events that support the effort to change things, including a Day of Action on December 14, when marriage equality volunteers will take to Salem downtown streets to gather signatures.
“The response we have gotten in Salem is positive,” according to Gregg Moreland, a local volunteer for Oregon United for Marriage. “Someone came up and said he’d been looking for us, he’s been wanting to sign. It’s really exciting to be there for people.”
Willamette University has joined in the cause with Students United for Marriage. Willamette student Dylan Sheldon describes considerable interest on-campus; on an initial outing “the group obtained contact information an about 160 students who wanted to help out, and got a few hundred [petition] signatures in just a few hours.”
Sheldon says the work is personal for him. “As a young gay person I want to grow up and meet someone and fall in love, and to have that love validated by marriage.”
Sheldon also believes that the passage of the initiative would make an important statement about Oregon’s values. “Winning gay freedom would send a message to other young people not accepted at home, to know that their love is accepted by the majority of Oregonians.”
Online resources for interested persons include Oregon United for Marriage, Oregon Says I Do and Basic Rights Oregon.
Petitions require 116,284 signatures to qualify for the ballot, and the groups have already obtained 115,000.
“Every signature is an opportunity to talk to people about why marriage matters,” says Zuckerman.