EDITORS’ NOTE: This is the fourth story in a five-part series examining state marriage amendment initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot.
SALEM, Ore. (BP)–It’s not an overstatement to say that the clock may be ticking on traditional marriage in Oregon.
On Nov. 2, citizens in that West Coast state will vote on a constitutional amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage, thus banning same-sex “marriage.” Two weeks later, the Oregon Supreme Court will hear arguments from homosexual activists in a case seeking to legalize same-sex “marriage.”
The sequence of events has provided what pastors and pro-family leaders say is a clearly defined option. Either the amendment passes, they say, or the court will force same-sex “marriage” on the state’s citizens.
“If it fails, there is no doubt in Oregon that we will have same-sex ‘marriage.’ There’s no question about it,” said Kelly Boggs, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore., and a weekly columnist for Baptist Press.
Boggs — who has worked in Oregon to promote the amendment — is not alone in his belief about the court. In March Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers issued an opinion saying that if the Supreme Court were to hear a marriage case, it likely would rule that withholding the benefits of marriage from same-sex couples violates the Oregon constitution.
“If the Oregon courts conclude that the [marriage] statute classifies on the basis of gender, the likelihood that they would find that limitation unconstitutional is very high,” Myers said in his opinion.
Including Oregon, 11 states will vote on marriage amendments Nov. 2. But amendment supporters in Oregon likely have a sense of urgency unseen in the other states.
Oregon’s Supreme Court is viewed by legal observers as one of the more liberal state courts in the country, and its citizens tilt to the left on social issues. The state hasn’t voted for a Republican in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Most public polls have shown support for the amendment hovering around 50 percent. Sensing an opportunity, homosexual activists have swarmed the state, hoping to defeat at least one marriage amendment on Election Day.
The Seattle Times reported Oct. 17 that amendment opponents are outspending supporters by a margin of nearly 3 to 1. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has given $500,000 to defeat the amendment while the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s largest homosexual rights group — has pledged $100,000. In addition, amendment opponents have 5,000 volunteers on the ground, working to defeat the amendment.
Conservatives in the state don’t have the resources to match that, but they do have the support of thousands of churchgoers. The church coalition has already tallied one victory this summer.
Needing 100,000 signatures to place the amendment on the ballot, churches collected double that — more than 200,000 — in a record time of only five weeks. Since then, they’ve been working to drum up support for the amendment.
The Defense of Marriage Coalition — the group spearheading the drive — has produced slick, pro-amendment videos and distributed them across the state. One is aimed at older adults, the other at 18-29-years-olds. The 18-29 video includes interviews with young adults explaining why the amendment is needed. While they talk, contemporary Christian music plays in the background.
The Defense of Marriage Coalition also has launched a website aimed exclusively at those young adults — www.iwontberedefined.com — where the video can be viewed. The video aimed at older adults can be viewed online at www.voteyeson36.org. Each runs approximately 10 minutes.
“I have no desire to be a part of politics, but when it’s about a faith issue … I believe it’s time to stand up as a generation,” one young man says in the video aimed at 18-29-year-olds.
The other video closes with a female saying simply, “Speak now, or forever hold your peace.”
Boggs said the churches are involved.
“They’re really working hard,” he said. “They’re preaching. They’re encouraging their people to vote.”
The controversy in Oregon began last spring, when the state’s most populous county, Multnomah County, defied state law by issuing more than 3,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A state court judge subsequently ordered the county to stop, but a backlash followed with the churches organizing to place the amendment on the ballot.
The amendment isn’t a cure-all and can still be overturned in federal court — which is one of the reasons pro-family leaders are pushing for a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, the amendment would prevent the Oregon Supreme Court from legalizing same-sex “marriage.”
“The homosexual activists have already shown their intent,” Boggs said. “… So, we must change our constitution so as to define marriage as being only between one man and one woman.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage