Gay rights opposition petition efforts failing to get signatures

By Brad Cain
The Associated Press
SALEM — With few signatures to spare, gay rights opponents say it will take a miracle for their referendum effort to succeed in blocking two new gay rights laws from taking effect Jan. 1.

“We are still full of hope. But it’s going to be very close,” former state Sen. Marylin Shannon said Friday as state election officials completed a preliminary tally of signatures submitted for the two proposed referrals.

With the petition signatures now going to county clerks for checking, it appears doubtful there are enough signatures to send the referral measures to the November 2008 ballot — a prospect that heartens gay rights backers.

“We certainly hope that Oregon won’t have to put these two laws on hold for almost a full year,” said John Hummel of Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s largest gay rights advocacy group.

The referendum campaign by the social conservative and church groups is aimed at derailing laws passed by the 2007 Legislature to legalize domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A preliminary tally by state elections officials indicated there were 60,531 signatures for the measure to force an election vote on the domestic partnership law.

County clerks will have until Oct. 26 to verify that at least 55,179 of those signatures are valid to trigger an election. That would require a validity rate of 91 percent, which has been reached just once in recent years.

The effort to sidetrack the anti-discrimination law faces an even taller hurdle, since the state’s preliminary count showed 59,751 signatures, meaning that 92 percent of those signatures would have to be deemed valid.

“It would have to be a very high validity rate for both” referrals to suspend the two laws, said Mary Conley of the Oregon secretary of state’s office.

Undaunted by the thin signature margin, Shannon said opponents of the gay rights laws are prepared to launch an initiative campaign to place a repeal of both new laws on the November 2008 ballot. Backers of such a move would have until next July to gather signatures.

Still, gay rights backers will consider it a major victory if the current effort to refer the measures to the 2008 ballot falls flat, Hummel said.

“Even if we faced an initiative campaign, our new laws wouldn’t be put on hold for a year, and that would be wonderful news,” the Basic Rights Oregon spokesman said.

Current Comments:
Hey, if y’all hate [insert group here], why don’t you just move to [name of state] where it’s still illegal for [number] consenting adults to do whatever they want behind closed doors? It’ll be less offensive for you there with your like-minded people, and the rest of us can get along fine by ourselves, thanks.

If your petition fails and you don’t want to move, there’s always a costly lawsuit to keep things tangled up in the courts — God Forbid people be granted civil rights or something!
Richard Cranium – Ashland OR – October 6th, 6:05 PM
How odd that Shannon can use a wonderful word like ‘hope’ to describe a desire that is infused with malice. I wonder how well she sleeps at night…
Confused – Talent, OR – October 7th, 12:20 PM

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