It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, thatonly a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid orlegally recognized as a marriage. A majority of Oregonians approvedof adding “one man, one woman” language to the Oregonconstitution Tuesday night, passing Measure 36 57 percent to 43percent, with 78 percent of precincts reporting last night.
The new language calls into question marriage licenses issued toover 3,000 gay and lesbian couples this spring by Multnomah Countyofficials. It also trumps the legal opinions given thus far thatdenying the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage tosame-sex couples is unconstitutional.
This fall, the No On 36 campaign’s closest polls put the race ata statistical tie, but other groups’ data consistently showed atleast a slightly higher percentage of voters in the Yes on 36camp.
Anti-same-sex marriage activists launched a spirited oppositionto Multnomah County commissioners’ decision to issue marriagelicenses in March. Signature drives to put a constitutionalamendment on the ballot gathered more than twice the requiredsignatures in record time, some from citizens who objected to theperceived lack of public process more than same-sex marriageitself.
The discourse on Measure 36 had been largely controlled by twovocal groups. Its backers, the Yes On 36 campaign, framed the issueas a “response of last resort” that sought to protectheterosexual marriage as a social institution.
“This issue has always been about marriage,” thecommunications director of the Defense of Marriage CoalitionGeorgene Rice said.
Proponent of same-sex marriage in Oregon have not given up,despite the measure’s passage.
“This is not the end of the story,” said Jim Morris, aboard member for Basic Rights Oregon, one of the most prominentopponents of the measure. “This campaign has built hugealliances … a whole network of supporters.”
Supporters of Measure 36, however, celebrated the results lateTuesday night. Tim Nashif, who is the political director of theDefense of Marriage Coalition, said that the results made the groupfeel good because of all of their hard work.
“We’ve lived this thing for the past six or seven months.Marriage is very important, it shouldn’t be redefined,” Nashifsaid. “We believe if you redefine it, you’re un-definingmarriage.”
Kelly Clark, an attorney representing the Defense of MarriageCoalition said that he expects a lot of legal maneuvering fromgroups against Measure 36 in response to the election results, butthat “the constitution belongs to the people, not to thecourts.”
A motion will be filed with the Supreme Court to dismissupcoming Multnomah County litigation.
“The most important battle has been won. The people havespoken, and you have been heard,” Clark said. Clark alsostated that he is a strong supporter of gay rights, but supportscivil unions for gays instead of marriage, echoing the sentimentsof many Measure 36 supporters.
Yes on 36 focused part of its campaign on the youth vote. Themeasure gained some youth support even among those still too youngto vote. Adriana Danciv, a 17-year-old, expressed relief at themeasure’s success. If gay marriage were allowed in Oregon, “Ibelieve it would get worse and worse,” Danciv said.
“America is founded on Christianity,” Danciv said.
Although there are religious leaders on both sides of thisissue, churches frequently became centers for organization andsupport for the measure.
Measure 36 gained much of its support within church groups.
“So many people have taken up this banner of truth,”said Pastor Frank Damazio, of City Bible Church.
Damazio supported the measure but emphasized the campaign’sclaim that the measure was not about discrimination.
“We certainly don’t want to judge the community. It’s notabout that,” Damazio said.
Damazio did not gloat about the measure’s success, however.”I grieve about their [No on 36’s] loss tonight,” hesaid.
The measure’s opponents, the No On 36 campaign, presented theamendment as a recipe for discrimination cooked up by homophobeswith no understanding of the separation of church and state.
According to the No On 36 campaign, wrong-way voting affectedpolls and votes. Being known as “the gay marriagemeasure” meant that the pro-gay marriage voters mistakenlyexpressed support for it, not realizing the measure banned gaymarriage, said a spokesperson for the campaign.
The group now plans to shift focus to establishing civil unionsas a viable legal way of administering the benefits of marriage tosame-sex couples. Measure 36 does not prohibit civil unions, butopponents will face a battle from a familiar group. The Defense ofMarriage Coalition’s opening brief to the Oregon Supreme Courtholds that “same-sex couples have no constitutional right tomarriage or the discreet benefits of marriage which might beprovided by a civil union or domestic partnership.”
Voters in 10 other states faced similar measures, eight of themalso banning legal recognitions of gay couples such as civilunions. For the past several months, Oregon had been regarded asthe only state where the measure passage was not assumed.
National gay and lesbian rights groups had contributed largesums of money in an attempt to defeat the measure.
“We donated $900,000 to this campaign and we don’t regret apenny,” said Dave Fleicher of the National Gay Lesbian TaskForce.
For Adrienne Hill, a volunteer for the No On 36 campaign,Measure 36 will put discriminatory language into the Oregonconstitution and set back gay rights in Portland, which shebelieves is an important issue to residents.
“Portland has always been a very nurturing place for gaysand lesbians on the west coast,” she said.
Additionally, Hill is concerned about what the passage of 36will mean for those couples married in Multnomah county lastspring.
“We don’t know what will happen to thosefamilies.”
The following staffers contributed to this special extendedelection section:
Brett D. Pearce
Patrick Alan Coleman