Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oregon Launches Marriage Equality Educational Campaign in Preparation for 2012 Ballot

As I reported earlier, Oregon has been gearing up for some time to launch an initiative to overturn the state's 2004 ban on marriage equality.

Well, that time has finally come. Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, has announced that it will begin preparing for a 2012 campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.

BRO will begin with an educational campaign called "Marriage Matters to Me."

"Marriage Matters To Me is a grassroots campaign to get Oregonians talking to each other about marriage equality," says the website. "The most important and influential conversations we have are with the people we know and care about. For the many Oregonians who believe that extending civil marriage to same sex couples is a matter of basic fairness and respect, Marriage Matters To Me is an easy and powerful way to start that conversation."

BRO believes that next year will be too soon to bring the question before Oregonians. Instead, they believe having a conversation first will lay the foundation for a 2012 initiative campaign.

"The heat of a campaign is no time to have a calm, heartfelt conversation about why civil marriage is so important" to gays and lesbians, the group's executive director, Jeana Frazzini, told the AP.

However, they group does have the end goal in mind. Frazzini told the Oregon Live that the goal is "to allow same-sex couples to legally marry in this state. There is no substitute for the respect and dignity that comes with marriage."

But like California, Oregon faces a difficult challenge in convincing voters to reverse their earlier decision and vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage..

"We're going to fight it, and we'll fight it just as hard now as we did in 2004," said Tim Nashif, the political director of the church-backed group Oregon Family Council. "I don't think Oregonians are going to overturn Measure 36," which defines marriage as a bond between only a man and a woman.

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, is directly involved in Oregon's effort to bring equality to its LGBT population.

Marriage "is one of the most important statements we make about who we are," he told Oregon Live. "It is so important to commitment and love that most people wear the symbol of it on their hands."

At the "Marriage Matters to Me" website, individuals and couples can upload videos of themselves, explaining exactly why marriage does in fact matter to them. Byron and Juan's video is featured on the home page.

Also on the website is a pledge for marriage equality supporters to sign, pledging that they will discuss with friends, family and neighbors why marriage equality is so important to them.

Today, Oregon's neighbor in the north, Washington state, will determine whether or not to keep its new "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law. It's neighbor in the south, California, may face a ballot to restore marriage equality in either 2010 or 2012.

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