Ashland Mayor John Stromberg and all six Ashland City Council members have endorsed a statement supporting the right for same-sex couples to marry.
"As mayor and council members of a great Oregon city, we proudly stand together in support of the freedom of same-sex couples to marry," the statement reads.
Last week, Stromberg and all councilors agreed to sign the statement. They each plan to drop by Ashland City Hall by Friday to sign their names.
The statement continues, "We personally know many gay and lesbian people living in our cities and towns who are in committed, loving relationships, who are active participants in the civic life of our communities, and who deserve to be able to marry the person with whom they share their life."
The statement says that the signatories look forward to helping build a nation where all people can share in the love and commitment of marriage.
Stromberg and the councilors agreed to sign the statement after being asked to do so by Southern Oregon Pride, a local organization that supports gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people.
"I'm very excited that I live in a place where I'm not just tolerated, I'm welcomed," said Gina DuQuenne, president of the Southern Oregon Pride board of directors.
DuQuenne said she has been with her partner for 13 years and leads an average life as a mother and grandmother.
Though she and her partner are committed to each other and consider themselves to be married, DuQuenne said they cannot legally marry in Oregon and don't have the same rights as married couples.
DuQuenne said she holds out hope that marriage will become legal for same-sex couples throughout America someday.
"I know it's going to happen in my lifetime," she said. "We've come so far, but we have so far to go."
DuQuenne said the timing for the Ashland mayor and City Council's support of the statement is perfect because Ashland's third annual Southern Oregon Pride Festival kicks off soon, running from Oct. 11 through Oct. 14.
Events include a coming-out rally at Southern Oregon University on Oct. 11, a dance at the Historic Ashland Armory on Oak Street on Oct. 12, a downtown parade plus booths and entertainment on Oct. 13 and a brunch on Oct. 14.
Southern Oregon Pride has produced a shopping guide and involved numerous Ashland businesses, including Bloomsbury Books, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Varsity Theatre and assorted pubs and restaurants.
The Southern Oregon Pride Festival attracts Ashlanders as well as visitors from other cities.
DuQuenne, the sales, catering and events manager at the Ashland Springs Hotel, said Oregon could bolster its economy and tourism by allowing same-sex marriage.
She said the hotel has hosted commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples. In 2011, Stromberg served as one of the grand marshals of the Southern Oregon Pride Festival parade.
This year, the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee awarded Southern Oregon Pride a $5,000 economic and cultural development grant. The committee noted that the annual Pride festival organized by the group has grown and attracts people to town.
In the statement voicing support for same-sex marriage rights, Stromberg and council members said cities derive economic benefits from embracing diversity because that draws creative entrepreneurs.
Since winning the support of Ashland's mayor and councilors for the statement, DuQuenne said she's been asked whether she'll invite elected officials in other Rogue Valley cities to sign similar statements.
"Maybe I will branch out and ask others. We have the momentum and we want to branch out," she said.
Talent Mayor Bill Cecil said that as mayor, he tries not to get involved in issues that are not Talent city government business.
He said the issue of same-sex marriage rights needs to be addressed at the state level.
"Personally, I try to see everyone as completely equal," Cecil said.
Central Point Mayor Hank Williams said he probably would not be interested in signing a statement in support of same-sex marriage but declined to offer further comment.
Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler did not return a phone call for comment.
For more information about Southern Oregon Pride and its upcoming festival, visit http://www.sopride.org/.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.