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Baptist pastor in Ore. helps lead marriage amendment petition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Oregonians will vote on a state constitutional marriage amendment this fall if a petition drive, started in part by a Southern Baptist pastor, succeeds.

The drive must collect approximately 100,000 signatures by July — a tall task that may have been made a bit easier March 3 when Multnomah County, where Portland sits, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state’s attorney general is studying the legality of the licenses, and petitioners are hoping for a backlash.

Kelly Boggs of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore., is one of the chief petitioners. The others are Kent Walton of Portland and Tom Harrison of Oregon City.

The amendment would protect the traditional definition of marriage, thus banning same-sex “marriage.” Oregon is one of 12 states with no explicit protection against same-sex “marriage.”

Boggs, who writes a weekly column for Baptist Press, said the outlook is good.

“I am very optimistic that we will get the necessary signatures to place the initiative on the ballot,” he said. “Even though we do not have the petition approved yet, we have been receiving strong support. One exciting thing for me is seeing the support of Northwest Southern Baptists.

“I believe we have an opportunity to play a significant role in seeing this initiative succeed. It will not be easy, but I think we can see this initiative pass.”

The petition deadline is July 3. As a backup, petitioners also plan on collecting signatures for a state statute, which also would ban same-sex “marriage” but would need only 75,600 signatures.

The petition effort was underway when Multnomah County followed in the footsteps of San Francisco and began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers released a statement March 3 saying his office was analyzing Oregon law and the state constitution.

“We will endeavor to address these issues as quickly as we can,” the statement read.

State law reads: “Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable.”

Boggs believes Multnomah County’s action will only help the petition effort.

“The total disregard of the people’s will in this situation will cause a significant number of people, who were perhaps undecided on the issue, to support the petition,” he said. “I think it has already kindled a sense of urgency for all of us working on the petition. So, I almost want to send thank-you notes to the Multnomah Country commissioners for all the help they have given us by issuing same-sex marriage licenses.”

Even some same-sex “marriage” supporters believe San Francisco and other cities are harming their cause. Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and an open homosexual, told a Washington Post online discussion Feb. 27 that he favors dealing with the issue in the courts — like it was done in Massachusetts.

“One of the reasons I am in disagreement with San Francisco’s efforts is that it plays into Bush’s effort to play up the issue while not legally accomplishing any marriages,” he said. “And if a large number of other cities emulated San Francisco that would exacerbate things.”

Disobeying the law helps President Bush’s push for a constitutional amendment, Frank argued.

“To the extent that people from all over the country are going to San Francisco and then returning to their home states saying they are now legally married, that generates political support in other states for the constitutional amendment with no gain because they will not be considered legally married in those states,” Frank said.
For more information on the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at:

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  • Michael Foust