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One Radical Opinion

by "Radical" Russ Belville
Sunday, September 26, 2004

"Radical" Russ Belville was born on the first day of the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War in the town of Nampa in the "red" state of Idaho, where any opinion to the left of Reagan gets you labeled as "radical". He currently resides in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon (a.k.a. "Little Beirut") where he works in Information Technology. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about current events, playing the six-string bass guitar, and volunteering for liberal political causes. You can contact him via e-mail at letters 'at'

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Do you believe in legislating discrimination? Do you believe government should treat people differently based on whom they choose to marry? What’s best for the children?

These are the questions at the heart of the matter regarding the Oregon Measure 36, the initiative that seeks to amend Oregon's Constitution with language that reads: only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or legally recognized as marriage.

This follows a controversial move by Multnomah County commissioners to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners. The commissioners were interpreting Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution: No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens. (Whether the commissioners should have done the interpreting is a separate matter.)

Measure 36’s proponents say that it doesn't prevent anyone from having a committed relationship. That's correct. Straight couples and gay couples are free to fall in love, share a home and raise their children. But only straight couples’ families can get legal recognition of that partnership, protections of shared property, medical visitation, inheritance, tax status, child custody and hundreds more rights and benefits of marriage. Voting yes on 36 harms the children of gay parents by excluding them from the protection of family law.

Proponents will argue, as they did in a recent KATU Town Hall Meeting broadcast in Portland, that gay couples can secure all the legal protections of marriage through contracts and wills. That stance means that the supporters of constitutional discrimination are not against gay couples having the rights and benefits of marriage, just as long as they jump through a whole bunch of expensive legal hoops to get it.

So what exactly are they defending then? It's OK for gay couples to be married, just so long as they don't call it "marriage"? Is that what they’re defending, a word? Fifty years ago our society recognized that "separate but equal" is anything but.

I think the founders of Oregon got it right when they drafted Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution. Laws should apply equally to all citizens. By voting yes on Measure 36, you are condemning some American citizens to spend the rest of their lives living with a committed partner in a relationship that leaves their family unprotected in matters of family law.

Supporters of Measure 36 need to get over their personal distaste for homosexuality. They can continue to be disgusted by gay people, they can continue to preach that gays are going to hell, and they will never be forced to marry gay couples in their church. But in America and Oregon we have a tradition of championing the rights of minorities. Gay people and their children aren't going away; we should treat them as fairly as anyone else. It would be a sad chapter in our history if we tainted our most sacred political document by declaring that only some people's families are worthy of legal recognition.