Press Room

April 04, 2005

Category: Civil Unions

Oregon Civil Union Bill Dies After Making History

'No Oregon family should have to wait for equal rights and responsibilities,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

WASHINGTON - The Oregon Legislature adjourned this morning without a final vote on the joint civil union and non-discrimination bill, killing the measure for this legislative session. The bipartisan legislation made history last month when it passed the state Senate by a vote of 19-10, but Speaker of the House Karen Minnis steadfastly refused to bring the bill up for a vote.

"No Oregon family should have to wait for equal rights and responsibilities," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Despite wide popularity for treating gay families equally, Speaker Minnis thwarted every attempt for the Legislature to vote on the bill."

After passage of a constitutional amendment last year banning marriage for same-sex couples, Basic Rights Oregon - the statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization - began working toward passage of a bill to enact civil unions and ban discrimination against LGBT Oregonians. HRC supported BRO with a coordinated grassroots strategy on the bill including on-the-ground staff support and generating constituent contacts to legislators.

"We are proud to have supported Basic Rights Oregon's valiant efforts to protect all Oregon families equally," said Solmonese. "On the heels of the constitutional amendment, getting off the defensive and calling on the Legislature to pass a bill that most Oregonians support was exactly the right thing to do. That momentum will continue, despite this setback."

Several weeks ago in what has been called the "midday massacre," Minnis gutted the Senate-passed S.B. 1000, which would have granted critical rights and protections to Oregon families and locked the bill in a budget committee to prevent a majority of legislators from forcing the bill to a floor vote. Days later, a new bill - H.B. 3508 - gave new hope to the proposal. But just one day before the speaker was required to assign the bill to committee, Minnis suspended a 140-year-old rule which could have allowed a majority of legislators in the House to vote on the bill before the session ended. With less than a week left in the session, this political ploy effectively ended hopes of passing the new civil unions/non-discrimination bill before the Legislature's adjournment.

"Legislative action to protect and recognize all Oregon families and ensure that all Oregonians can live, work and travel in the state of Oregon free from discrimination is long overdue," said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe. "The fact that the Oregon Legislature missed an enormous opportunity this session to take a moral stand against discrimination is an absolute outrage."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.