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Oregon marriage equality campaign collects required number of signatures for ballot measure

Marriage equality

A small but important piece of news out of Oregon, where the pro-marriage equality group Oregon United for Marriage announced this weekend that it had gathered enough signatures to put an equal marriage measure on the November 2014 ballot.  On Top Magazine reports:

“It’s been just four months since we started gathering signatures on the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative,” said Ryan Brown, the group’s field director. “Thanks to volunteer signature gatherers in every Oregon county, I have some amazing news to share: We have over 116,284 signatures in hand!”

Signature gathering will continue to guard against failing to qualify due to invalid or duplicate signatures.

Last month, Oregon Family Council, the Christian conservative group that spearheaded the amendment campaign, announced it was working on a ballot initiative that would allow businesses and individuals to refuse participating in or supporting same-sex unions, including marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. Since 2007, Oregon has recognized gay couples with domestic partnerships.

If Oregon United for Marriage’s ballot initiative passes, Oregon will be the first state in which voters approved both a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality (in 2004) and another measure repealing that amendment.

In October, two same-sex couples filed a suit in a Eugene court arguing that Oregon’s marriage equality ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.


  • 1. MightyAcorn  |  December 9, 2013 at 8:25 am

    C'mon Portlandia! If Washington State can do it so can you. Let's make the West Coast the Equality Coast!

  • 2. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  December 9, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Technically, they've only collected enough signatures if this includes no duplicates and every single one of the signatures is valid.

    But considering that they have until May 23 to get enough valid signatures, and considering that the Secretary of State's office has been validating signatures each month that were submitted the month before, I think it's extremely likely that they will get enough total signatures to have the required number of valid ones.

  • 3. Dave  |  December 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Have they been submitting sigs already? I was under the impression that they were holding them all and then would turn them in at one time. This is how it's done in Maine and Washington.

    As for the status of the petitioning, I agree with you. This post is misleading. They are not done. They do not have enough signatures now. They need to build a cushion to account for invalid signatures.

    I am not sure what I think about Oregon United. On the one hand, there is no doubt that this is a substantial effort and it will certainly qualify for the ballot. They also have been doing a very good job of building their coalition. The formation of the Nike PAC is a good example of this.

    However, I haven't been that impressed with the pace of their signature gathering. They started off strong, and then, as you would expect, it slowed. But it has stayed rather slow for a long time now. Here it is 4 months later and they only have the technical minimum. And for Oregon, 116,000 is a small number. At their current rate, which is about 2500-3000 sigs per week, they will still be at this for months. By contrast, in 2004, the other side turned in 250,000 after 6 weeks of petitioning.

    I am not sure if the slow pace means anything. It could simply reflect a tactical choice to string out this phase. This would go against conventional wisdom, which holds that our side benefits from a longer campaign, but it is possible. On the other hand, it could reflect grass-roots weakness, i.e., a lack of volunteers or a passion gap.

  • 4. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  December 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    In Oregon, petitioners are supposed to submit their signatures gathered in one month no later than the 10th business day of the following month (between the 12th and 17th calendar day, depending on weekends and holidays). The SOS's office has thirty calendar days to validate those signatures. So all of October's signatures had to be submitted by November 15, and they must be verified by SOS by December 15. So by the middle of each month, the petitioners should have an accurate count of how many verified, valid signatures they had gathered by a month and a half prior, and based on the rate they've been validated thus far, have an estimate of how close they are to the final goal.

    Here's the 2012 initiative handbook from the SOS's website:

    See pages 7, 8, 20, 22-23, and 24 for the submission rules and process.

  • 5. Dave  |  December 11, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Thanks for that.. That certainly seems a more reasonable approach. In WA, the SOS office gets deluged with boxes upon boxes of petitions in a single day. The office has to hire a small army of poorly trained temp workers to handle the crush. This has real consequences for accuracy in the verification process. I am 90% convinced that the WA referendum on the domestic partnerships law was improperly certified for the ballot because of these temp worker errors and the skewed process the office then uses to weed out temp errors.

    Is the OR SOS posting her monthly results for the public to see? I looked around the SOS website, but I couldn't find anything.

  • 6. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  December 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Regarding the pace, the other side had a built-in infrastructure to collect signatures: Churches. Give a few signature sheets to each church in a town and each Sunday (and Wednesday in some churches) you've got a golden opportunity to gather several hundred or thousand signatures at one shot. And since people generally don't attend multiple different churches, there's little risk of overshot.

    On the other hand, the large gatherings for our side are more spread out, and there may be more overlap. Pride festivals and parades are great places to gather tons of signatures, but some people go to those in multiple cities. Also, the timing is off, since overall, most pride parades and festivals are held during the summer. By the time the Supreme Court had ruled the objections from the Oregon Family Council out of order (they filed three days after the deadline for objections), many of the pridefests for the year had passed already.

  • 7. Valquiria  |  December 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    There's no need to depend on gays for signatures in a place so densely concentrated with hetero liberals. OUM should stake out every farmer's market and college campus in Portland and Eugene.

  • 8. Anthony  |  December 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

    What is the point of doing this by ballot? There are lawsuits headed to SCOTUS as we speak that are challenging the state laws.

  • 9. Dr. Z  |  December 9, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Agreed, but remember they started working on this long before Windsor.

  • 10. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  December 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    They aren't really close to the Supreme Court yet (the closest is in Nevada, and that hasn't even been heard by the Court of Appeals yet, let alone had a decision reached at that level). But even if a court did rule the Oregon amendment unconstitutional, the language would still be there in the constitution and would still need to be removed.

    And there's every chance that the Supreme Court may decide that now is not the correct time to take on a marriage case. Regardless of the outcome in Nevada, they may say that it's sufficient to wait until there is a conflict in the lower courts.

    Or a ruling in favor of marriage in Nevada might be written narrowly, e.g. to only affect Nevada and Oregon, since those two states already offer same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage under a different name ("domestic partnerships"). In the Prop 8 case, the Court of Appeals ruled narrowly, limiting the ruling to just California because only California had marriage taken away, as opposed to it having never been granted in the first case.

  • 11. Anthony  |  December 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Just wait until tax season. I'm telling you, there will be lawsuits in every single state. It's going to be impossible to justify this "federally married, state single" system much longer.

  • 12. Dave  |  December 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Because there is no guaranty that the Court will hear any of the cases now in the pipeline, and even if they did, there is no guaranty that we will win. And if they do take it and we do win, there is no guaranty that it will be on grounds that impact other states, like Oregon. And lastly, passing marriage equality in as many states as possible will give the Court psychological comfort to issue a pro-equality ruling. SCOTUS doesn't like to get ahead of the nation, so it is far more likely to rule for us if 20-25 states have passed marriage equality.

  • 13. Anthony  |  December 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I think if we can nab Pennsylvania, Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado, that will be enough and we can head to SCOTUS.

  • 14. Anthony  |  December 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    But honestly, all the legal experts say that there will be instantaneous federal lawsuits anyway now because of this federally married, state single system. What SCOTUS did is essentially federal recognition of marriage in all 50 states, and now they have to do the next logical step and create state recognition in all 50 states.

  • 15. Michelle Evans  |  December 10, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Don't forget New Mexico in that list.

  • 16. Dave  |  December 11, 2013 at 1:08 am

    If SCOTUS takes the case that is the furthest along, which is the case out of Nevada, then that would happen in 2015. We would at most be able to add NM and OR to our current roster of 16 states. That's a total of 18, and it is lower than we would want. We want to be at half the states, and if we can't get that, then to be as close to 25 as possible. If SCOTUS passes on the NV case, then we would get to the 2016 election and there would be the possibility of getting CO, OH, and maybe even AZ.

    I don't think we can get PA because that would require a vote of the legislature, which is GOP controlled. NV is an excellent prospect, but as I understand it, it requires TWO ballot votes. So by 2016, we would have finished the first one, with one more to go. However, if we had 21 states under our belt, plus a winning first vote in NV, that would be a pretty good backdrop for the big SCOTUS case.

  • 17. Paul  |  December 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Why do businesses only get the religious freedom to refuse same-sex marriages? What about interracial marriages? Why don't people who are against interracial marriages get their religious freedoms protected?

    Maybe because letting businesses discriminate against gay people isn't about protecting religious freedom at all? It's really about animus against gay people, and giving people the power to continue to punish gay people using their businesses?

  • 18. Zack12  |  December 9, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Bingo,that's exactly what it is.
    Hence the reason they keep losing when they make these claims. Because it's about bigotry and nothing more.

  • 19. Mike  |  December 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Wow. It really does exclusively apply to same-sex weddings and unions. I figured they wrote it like all civil rights laws and would include opposite-sex weddings even if nobody ever complained about them.


    "SECTION 1. This 2014 Initiative shall be known as the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative and is intended to exempt a person from supporting same-sex ceremonies in violation of deeply held religious beliefs. "

  • 20. Zack12  |  December 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    It does which is why it will be struck down the minute the first lawsuit is filed against it IF it passes.
    Romer V Evans is something this group has clearly never heard of.

  • 21. weshlovrcm  |  December 9, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Because the ultimate goal is to get rid of ALL civil rights protections. We are just the foot in the door. Why do you think so many cons are against the Civil Rights Act?

  • 22. SMSfromOR  |  December 9, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Hurry up, Oregon. I want to get married in my former state so family and friends can attend!

  • 23. Fluffyskunk  |  December 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Our Ryan Brown, against their Brian Brown. ^.^

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