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Equal marriage in Oregon? It's the next step

My View: State initiative could complete the task that Supreme Court ruling started


I was in the kitchen, huddled at the computer screen, too nervous to talk. My family was on the line, and so were the families of countless loving and committed couples.

When the news from the U.S. Supreme Court finally broke June 26, I burst into tears.

We had won a major victory. Love had won a major victory. The discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act had, in part, been struck down as unconstitutional.

Californians would soon have the freedom to marry. Married couples in 13 states plus the District of Columbia would now have their love and commitment to each other more fully recognized. Families would be stronger.

The ruling was monumental and particularly impactful for same-sex couples in Oregon. Oregon is now the only state on the West Coast that doesn’t have that freedom to marry for all couples, regardless of gender. But we’re going to win that freedom soon.

Oregon United for Marriage, a broad coalition of individuals and organizations who support the freedom to marry, formed earlier this year to win marriage for same-sex couples in our state. We aim to have the freedom to marry on the ballot in November 2014.

The Supreme Court decisions add to the momentum, which is already considerable, thanks to the victories in the states of Washington, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota, plus countries like France, Uruguay, New Zealand and Brazil.

To get the freedom to marry on the ballot in November 2014, the next step is to collect signatures. We start July 20, need your help, and have a year to collect 116,284 signatures. That’s a huge number — the equivalent of one signature every four and a half minutes.

And we’re aiming to do it in a way that’s unprecedented: create the largest volunteer team in the state to collect most of the signatures. It’s an opportunity to develop grassroots leaders, identify and train volunteers, and have the crucial conversations with our friends, families, colleagues and neighbors about why marriage matters to us all.

I’m looking forward to having the person-to-person, heart-to-heart conversations about why marriage matters to all of us, and through these conversations about marriage, I believe we can truly unite Oregonians around our common values of fairness, freedom and treating others as we would like to be treated. Gay and lesbian couples want to marry for similar reasons as straight couples — to make a lifetime commitment, to care for one another in good times and bad, and to ask our friends and family to support us in that commitment.

Although the campaign will be tough, I believe we will win, and I’m also excited to see how this victory sets us up for future ones. Basic Rights Oregon also is working to increase the safety and well-being of transgender Oregonians, focusing on medically necessary health care and ending discrimination based on gender identity. We’re also continuing our advocacy for racial justice, working to reduce the disparities for people of color in our communities.

We’ve made tremendous progress, and the Supreme Court decisions are a big step forward. But we still have a long way to go before gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Oregonians truly experience equality.

Jeana Frazzini is executive director of Basic Rights Oregon and a chief petitioner for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative.