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Revived Hope for Civil Unions & Non Discrimination in Oregon

Today I introduced House Bill 3508, which would authorize same-sex civil unions and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It includes provisions from SB 1000, which passed the Oregon Senate on July 8, with a bi-partisan vote of 19-10. Like similar legislation in Vermont, my bill also contains a separate Republican-backed measure to establish “reciprocal benefits” for unmarried people.

This bill is one final call to the Speaker of the House, asking her to schedule an up-or-down vote on a critical civil rights issue—the issue of civil unions and discrimination. We’re not asking for the Speaker’s personal vote for civil unions. But we are demanding the opportunity for the whole House to debate a matter that the Senate has already dealt with decisively. Each State Representative has the duty to vote his or her own conscience on how the state treats families.

Despite the Senate’s passage of SB 1000, which would have established civil unions and banned discrimination based on sexual identity, the Republican leadership last week maneuvered to block the bill’s progress to the floor of the House, where a debate and a vote could take place. I believe this maneuver was underhanded abuse of the House Rules.

This new bill is not a symbolic effort. We’re giving the Speaker of the House one more chance to do the right thing. Her job as Speaker is to schedule debates of bills, not to dictate how other Representatives cast their own votes. The matter of civil unions and discrimination deserves a full and open debate on the floor of the House. The voters of Oregon are entitled to know where their representatives stand on these issues. It’s not acceptable that one person, the Speaker of the House, should stand in the way and prevent the House from doing its duty.

Combining the civil unions and anti-discrimination measure with the reciprocal-benefits bill should broaden the appeal of HB 3508. I see no reason why we shouldn’t have both. The important thing, however, is that we cannot walk away from an issue that’s critically important to the people of Oregon. We must tackle it this session.

July 26, 2005 by Mary Nolan
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I'm just curious whether you found the Senate's Leadership as questionable when public hearings were never scheduled for parental notification or for a capital gains rate cut?

Is the economy of Oregon or the protection of young girls any less important than the status of a new protected minority?

The political posturing around this bill is almost laughable . . . as if the Senate hasn't killed many bills that passed with "bi-partisan" support in the House.

Posted by: OtherAisle | Jul 26, 2005 2:52:22 PM

Right on!!, Other Aisle

The D's whine like crazy when they don't get their way.

Before you condem me, go ask Kate Brown who the heck she thinks she is to not hear bills passed by the House. It's politics--pure politics. Grow up!


Posted by: brevityohyeah | Jul 26, 2005 3:26:46 PM

Brevity & OtherAisle:

Thanks for posting. I do think it is more than unfortunate when bills get killed without consideration in either house. We should compare lists, though, I think it would be very educational.

The House has blocked bills that benefit thousands of Oregonians in terms of health care, transportation and economic development, not to mention the top civil rights issue of our times.

The Senate has blocked bills that benefit a small percentage of the wealthiest Oregonians, such as the capital gains tax cut, or that are intended to play to only the right wing base, such as the parental notification law. If the GOP was truly interested in a bipartisan parental notification law, the opportunity to negotiate one was clearly there in the House, but the choice was made to play to the base.

That's why the GOP has continued to shrink in Oregon, and will shrink even more in 2006.

Posted by: Rep. Peter Buckley | Jul 26, 2005 5:28:18 PM

PB, welcome back. (didn't you D's take some time off, too?)

To suggest that "we should compare lists", for the educational value suggests to me that you've already compared...(like a GOOD attorney who doesn't ask a question w/out knowing the answer).

Any comparision, I believe, would be subjective.

Subjective to personal agenda's and political pressures brought upon the 90 of ya and somewhat the center (zzzzzzz)office. (Hope Vicki runs!)

Posted by: brevityohyeah | Jul 27, 2005 6:38:21 AM

"a bi-partisan vote of 19-10"

How is it bi-partisan when two "moderate" Republicans from increasingly-liberal districts join ALL BUT ONE Democrat? To me, bi-partisan would be healthy chunk of both parties.

Also, Rep. Buckley's implication that a parental notification law could have been passed if the GOP was willing to negotiate has a few flaws: 1) "Compromise" as it pertains to this subject means the bill would be so watered down as to be rendered meaningless -- either parents have the right to be notified of their daughter's elective surgery, or they don't; 2) and the Senate and Governor never would have agreed to any compromise.

By his definition, Rep. Buckley should have no reason to support SB1000 as it plays only to the left-wing base (see the results of Measure 36 if you disagree) and benefits a small percentage of Oregonians.

If you want to oppose certain bills, at least be honest about the reasons instead of spouting Democrat talking points. Polls show majority support for parental notification, and the whole "benefits only the rich" argument has been debunked by the country's economic recovery under the president's "tax cuts for the rich" (which benefit everyone *in proportion to their income*).

Rep. Buckley's bravado about the shrinking GOP population in Oregon sounds very much like a man willing to compromise, don't you think? I'd be very curious to see his evidence (other than the Democrats' assumption of power in the Senate) of such a claim, and will be even more interested in watching the Governor's race in 2006. If he thinks the Democrats will skate through that election with the ineffective and detached Gov. Kulongoski, I suspect he will be badly suprised.

Finally, if I understand Rep. Nolan's post above, it sounds like HB3508 is similar to SB1000, except it adds provisions for reciprocal benefits. If the House leadership was opposed to SB1000, what makes you think it will be amenable to HB3508? My guess is, you don't think they will be, so it's an opportunity for you to score dishonest political points against your opponent. As brevity said above, it's like an attorney who knows the answer before asking the question. You can talk all you want about how Speaker Minnis is playing political games (and she is), but you're no better.

Posted by: Ken | Jul 27, 2005 10:50:25 AM


Thanks for the post. Looks like we've pushed more than a few buttons with you, doesn't it? As Samuel L. Jackson says in "Pulp Fiction," allow me to retort.

On parental notification, you might have noticed that we had a minority bill on that issue that was an actual attempt at compromise. Our desire is to protect both the parents and the young woman involved. Our proposal was to require the doctor to inform parents unless there was clear evidence that to do so would endanger the young woman. The bill also required that an adult advocate be provided for all young women to talk them through what they are up against and make sure they are safe. The GOP proposal was for the young woman to appeal to an administrative law judge for permission to not have her parents notified. That, to me, seems totally outside of reality, that a young 16 year old would enter into the legal system on her own. We would be back in the days of back alley abortions and deaths of girls from botched operations.

Instead of working with the proposal we brought forth to adjust it in a way they might be more confortable with, the GOP refused to discuss it and passed their version to the Senate.

As for SB 1000, the polls clearly show that the far more Oregonians favor civil unions than oppose, not just the Democratic base. Add to that the many statements by the proponents of Measure 36 that they were not opposed to civil unions, yet now are, and the unfairness factor increases beyond the tipping point.

As for your comment on Bush's tax cuts helping the economy, I'm wondering which country you are living in. Do you ever talk with anyone living in your city who is not wealthy? Workers wages have fallen for the first time in almost fifteen years under Bush, countless jobs have been lost, the jobs we've created pay much less and have far fewer benefits. Sorry, but the GOP economic plan is a clear disaster, benfiting the few to the detriment of the many.

As for bravado and the less than incredible shrinking GOP, check out the results of the last several elections in Oregon, see which direction we're moving in. The GOP has only Gordon Smith to show as a candidate who has won statewide. We picked up the Senate in 2004 and we are going for the majority in the House in 2006. And there will be a Democratic governor to greet us when the next session convenes.

If you have a single potential statewide candidate of any credibility, I'd like to know who it might be. Virtually all of the elected leaders the GOP has now who are interested in statewide office are either unacceptable to their own party if they are moderate, or unacceptable to the state as a whole if they continue to cater to the right. Those who actually try to work to the middle to get things done get hammered by the extremists that have taken over your party. And Oregon clearly rejects the extremist agenda.

The refusal to even allow a vote on a major civil rights issue is just one more step in the extremist agenda.

Our party offers hope and the willingness to work for solutions that can actually make a difference. And hey--you're welcome to join us.

Thanks again.

Posted by: Rep. Peter Buckley | Jul 27, 2005 3:41:36 PM

Rep. Buckley--

Thank you for your responses . . . I actually thought that Ken did a good job of responding to your claims, but came up a little short in several areas.

(1) Capital Gains--Over the past century, there have been five instances of substantive cuts in capital gains rates by the federal government, and in each case the economy of the nation has benefitted substantially. If you look at the historical data (not political rhetoric) the evidence is quite clear that lower rates induce more taxpayers to realize their capital gains, and thus produce more revenue for the government.

Now I'm sure a good tax-and-spend liberal like yourself would appreciate more money to spend on K-12 wouldn't you?? But of course more money for the state government would only benefit the "ultra-rich" of Oregon, because they receive so many state services, right!

(2) Parental Notification--You honestly feel that there is no conflict of interest for a doctor working at an abortion clinic to determine whether or not he gets paid by determining the mental competency/capacity of a young girl. I will stay away from the term "abortionist," but we are generally talking about clinics where nothing other than the termination of life occurs. We are not talking about going into a full service hospital here.

Second, other states have parental CONSENT laws, so going with parental notification was a compromise. I'm sorry but if a young woman is old enough to have sex, to get pregnant, and to make a life-changing choice to terminate a young life, she is old enough to go before an administrative judge (basically an attorney) to demonstrate she is old enough to make this decision (and this is coming from an R that is not pro-life, but feels that some recognition of the life inside women must be given).

Like it or not, abortion is still the "civil rights issue of our time." The national debate about the Supreme Court is Judge Roberts stance on Roe or Casey, not whether or not the Boy Scouts should be forced to have a transgender troop master.

(3) Civil Unions--The proponents of Measure 36 said they were not opposed to civil unions that offered similar benefits to marriage. SB 1000 is not "similar benefits," it is clearly equivalent to marriage within Oregon.

Look at the language of the bill: Every time the word marriage is used in statute, it shall include civil unions.

Honestly, how can you argue that this is not marriage with a name change??

(4) The "slide" of the Republican party--You overlook some VERY obvious factors in the last election.

First, the House and Senate benefitted greatly from the dislike of the President. More D's (especially young ones) voted this last election because they were hoping the liberal Senator from Massachussetts would become our next President.

Second, you and I actually agree on one thing: It's about candidates. You honestly believe that Larry Galizio would be in office today if Max had not gone to corrections?? Time will tell is the party has learned from its mistakes . . . If Saxton actually beats Kevin in the primary, Theodore (or even more entertaining Vicki) may be in serious trouble. If Walden would leave Congress, there would be NO contest in the governor's race, so there are some promising candidates in the GOP, but they are doing better things for the state in their current positions.

You make it sound as if Ted Kulongoski is the second coming of Bill Clinton . . . get real. Where has the governor been this legislative session? He is disengaged because he's bored once again; has he ever held a prominent position for more than 4 years?

As for the "hope and promise" of the democratic party . . . nice campaign slogan, I fully expect to see it on some literature in the future.

Anyway, the election cycle of '06 should be very intriguing, and I look forward to some spirited campaigns.

Posted by: OtherAisle | Jul 28, 2005 9:23:50 AM

Since when did we allow civil rights to be voted on by the majority? I'm sure there are some out there that if they had their way, people of different races still wouldn't be able to marry. Further more, we would probably still see Benson Bubblers in Portland for whites and equal but separate bubblers for people that are black, or Hispanic, or anything other than white. We have a history in this country of treating people different than the mainstream as second class citizens. I for one am really tired of the separation of rights for different classes of people.

I hear complaints that gays and lesbians are looking for "special rights" in that they want to get married or have a government recognized commitment. Homosexual people don't want these protections so that they can damage marriage, or even take anything away from their heterosexual counterparts. They want the legal rights so that they can sleep easier at night. They want the protections that should be afforded to them simply because they are in love and want to be in control of what is best for the both of them.

Is that a special right that only certain people should have? If that be the case, isn't it than a special right for heterosexual people to get married? My dad remarried a wonderful woman that was unable to bear children; they adopted several together and have a very loving family. Since my step-mother was unable to give birth, should she have been banned from marrying my father, should they no longer make love because it's not for procreation? Where do we, as a state, stop intruding on the personal lives of Oregonians and allow those that accept and acknowledge their level of commitment the right to the benefits and the downsides of that recognized commitment? Isn't it the Republican's mantra to have as little government intervention as necessary? Is it appropriate and necessary to police the rights of gay and lesbian couples in Oregon?

But what about the moral decay of our society by allowing these commitments? Are two couples that love and are committed to each other contributing to the decay more or less than say a marriage of two people brought together by people that voted while watching a TV program? What about the shotgun marriages through a Las Vegas drive-through that end two weeks later? If homosexuality is, as some say, the ultimate bottom in a morally bankrupt society does that make all those that love and support them morally bankrupt too? There is a book out there that says something to the effect of not judging another, period. From my understanding it doesn't say not to judge those that agree with you, but it is okay to judge those that don't. So if you are standing in the way of the rights of a group of people that you might not understand, or possibly not even agree with, and passing judgment about their "alternative" lifestyle contrary to what the Bible tells you, doesn't that make you morally bankrupt yourself?

Posted by: MarkDaMan | Jul 28, 2005 1:54:56 PM

I am writing today on behalf of myself and my partner to thank Rep. Nolan and the other Democrats in the House for not giving up on the GLBT Community in this state. We have been living as second class citizens for too long and this legislation is a long time coming.
In regards to OtherAisle's assertion that the proponents of M36 said they would not be opposed to legislation offering "similar benefits". This is only partly true. You see this is the arguement of the DOMC after SB1000 was introduced. Here is the actual stuff they were saying during the campaign:
“Oregon’s measure was written specifically not to address civil unions.”
Tim Nashif, Oregon Family Council Director and an organizer of the Measure 36 campaign Bend Bulletin. 11/6/2004
“Same-sex couples should seek marriage-like rights through another avenue, such as civil unions.”
Tim Nashif, Oregon Family Council Director and an organizer of the Measure 36 campaign Bend Bulletin 8/20/2004

“If same-sex couples need legal protection, they should consult their legislative representatives. If they need legislation to do that, no one is going to stand in their way.”
Defense of Marriage Coalition Executive Director Mike White Lincoln City News Guard 11/10/2004

“Gay and lesbian couples are free to pursue marriage-like rights via a different avenue, such as civil unions that have been approved in Vermont.”
Defense of Marriage Coalition Spokesperson Georgene Rice Deschutes County Bulletin 9/30/2004

“The Coalition’s amendment did not preclude the state of Oregon from creating civil unions, so that same-sex couples could have the same rights as married heterosexual couples.”
Defense of Marriage Coalition Spokesperson Georgene Rice The Dalles Chronicle 9/30/2004

“The notion that civil unions by definition would be unequal is without merit because civil unions become what you make them.”
Defense of Marriage Coalition Spokesperson Georgene Rice Oregon Public Broadcasting 10/2004

I would like to draw special attention to "so that same-sex couples could have the same rights as married heterosexual couples" and "civil unions that have been approved in Vermont". This being said by the Spokesperson of the DOMC. I would think that if it is coming out of the Spokesperson's mouth that it must be the official stance of the organization.
The proponents clearly said we could have the same rights as hetero's minus the word marraige (and healthcare, pensions, and about 1,100 federal rights) not "similar rights". Also, HB3508 is the legislative twin to the Vermont Civil Unions laws.
So I guess my question now is, did the voters really mean to outlaw civil unions when they passed M36 or were they duped by yet another bait and switch by the extreme right?

Posted by: Marshall Collins | Jul 28, 2005 1:58:32 PM

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