Reports suggest that equality groups in Oregon are flirting with the idea of trying to overturn Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage at the 2012 ballot.
The Statesman Journal reports that Oregon group Basic Rights Oregon has announced that it will begin an education campaign to try and highlight the importance of legalizing marriage equality ahead of a potential drive in October to begin signature gathering.
A statement from Basic Rights Oregon clarifies that there has been no formal announcement that they will push for a November 2012 public vote but they are considering the idea:
Statement from Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon: An article by the Salem Statesman Journal inadvertently implied that Basic Rights Oregon has already decided to gather signatures for a 2012 ballot measure, while in fact we do not expect to make this decision until later this year. In the meantime, we continue our work to educate the public about why civil marriage matters to caring and committed same-sex couples. Last year, we launched this education campaign to engage Oregonians in conversations in person, on social media and on TV.
This news is still significant. Oregon would be breaking ground if it were able to put the issue of same-sex marriage before the public and repeal the state’s constitutional amendment.
In a piece for the New York Times published earlier this year statistician Nate Silver predicted that, based on both conservative and more optimistic models on how support for same-sex marriage is progressing, if Oregon took its constitutional ban to the polls it would see the public choose to overturn the ban by a margin of 55%.
However, some are more hesitant. President Obama’s election in 2008 coincided with the enactment of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. The high voter turnout brought on by the presidential elections and the motivation this provided conservative groups spell red flags for some. They fear that a move to overturn Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage may be a wasted effort and that advocates should be concentrating their efforts elsewhere, such as in court action.
This divide in thought is unlikely to go away, however what does seem important as a final note is the circumstances in which Oregon enacted a constitutional ban. Marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples for a brief time in 2004 before the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was enacted. The state supreme court later declared those marriages to be invalid. We have seen a sense of fairness play out in opinion polls which suggest that once a right has been given (even if inadvertently), a large proportion of the fair minded public feel it unjust to take that right away. As Oregonians have seen several states legalize same-sex marriage since they last took action in 2004, perhaps most notably and most recently New York, they may think to reconsider the ban.