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Marriage equality legislation faces key deadline in Hawaii, Oregon may vote on marriage in 2014

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Updated at 4:00 Eastern to correct dates regarding Hawaii’s marriage equality bill.  (Thanks to Cameron Tolle of Freedom to Marry for these corrections.)

Marriage equality advocates in Hawaii are eyeing a crucial deadline tomorrow for two bills that would legalize marriage equality in the Aloha State but must be scheduled by a House committee in order to move forward this year.  No hearing has been scheduled for either bill, and while one could take place as late as Thursday, it must be scheduled by Tuesday for legislation to be approved in 2013.

The Human Rights Campaign is staging a rally today in the rotunda of the Hawaii state capitol at 11:30 a.m. local time to urge lawmakers to move forward on one of the bills, HB 1109.  A poll of registered Hawaii voters conducted by the Equality Hawaii Foundation in late January found that 55 percent of respondents favor equal marriage right, with just 36 percent opposed.  In addition, a study by University of Hawaii economics professor Sumner La Croix released last week found that marriage equality could contribute between $46 and $258 million to the state’s economy between 2014 and 2016.

In Oregon, supporters of marriage equality announced today that they are launching a petition drive to put marriage equality on the ballot during the November 2014 election, the Oregonian reports.  The decision by Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s main LGBT advocacy group, makes it likely that the question will go before voters.  “I think people are really coming to understand that marriage is unique and special and you don’t want to deny that to anybody else,” Jeana Frazzini, the group’s executive director, told the Oregonian.

Basic Rights Oregon has been working on equal marriage since 2009, but decided in 2011 against a ballot push for 2012.  Last year’s victories for gay rights activists in neighboring Washington state, as well as Maine, Minnesota and Maryland, as well as a continuing growth of support in Oregon, where a PPP poll last December found 54 percent of voters support equal marriage, have convinced the group that a ballot campaign next year could be successful.

If Oregon voters were to approve marriage equality in 2014, the state would become the first to overturn a constitutional ban put in place by the voters themselves.  Oregon’s ban was approved by a popular vote in 2004, after Multnomah County, which includes Portland, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a determination by the county attorney that refusing to do so violated the Oregon Constitution.

Signature collections for the campaign, which will be called Oregon United for Marriage, will begin this Thursday, on Valentine’s Day.

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