Oregon Focuses on Marriage for 2012
August 20, 2009 by Editor
Clipboard in hand, Ernesto Dominguez, 21, rings the doorbell of a modest home in a Portland suburb. A 77-year-old woman in sweatpants appears and Dominguez politely asks, “Do you think committed same-sex couples should get the full rights of marriage?” The woman launches into a supportive rant. “This is supposed to be a free country and it’s getting to where [the government] dictates everything!” she says. “I say let ‘em do whatever they want!”
During the past eight weeks, same-sex marriage advocates like Dominguez have knocked on 17,000 doors around the state. Unlike most political campaigns, the volunteers and handful of paid workers turned out by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) and youth voting group the Oregon Bus Project are not aiming to get money or convince voters to support a specific ballot measure. Instead, as their Marriage Matters campaign aims to put same-sex marriage on the ballot as soon as 2012, the groups are trying to spark conversation with a random sample of voters. The first weeks of a three-year campaign in Oregon are gauging opinion on same-sex marriage while trying to win hearts and minds.
In 2004, 57 percent of Oregonians voted in favor of Measure 36, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. BRO challenged the ban in court, but unlike in Iowa, the state courts came down against the LGBT cause. To overturn the constitutional amendment and legalize same-sex marriage, BRO has to get its own statewide measure on the ballot.
That, says BRO Organizing Director Thomas Wheatley, means a massive campaign with years of groundwork. While BRO spent $56,000 lobbying state legislators in the first three months of this year, now they’re focusing on regular Oregonians.