Drive to overturn antidiscrimination ordinance fails in Oregon

BY admin

July 21 2004 11:00 PM ET

A new law that makes it illegal to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and transsexuals in Bend, Ore., has withstood its first challenge. Officials say petitioners Dave Eaton and Bill Brackett failed to gather
enough valid signatures to refer the ordinance to voters. Deschutes County clerk Nancy Blankenship said preliminary results show that the petitioners gathered 3,223 valid signatures before their Friday deadline. That is just shy of the 3,348 signatures required to send the ordinance to voters for
approval in November. The ordinance, which was approved last month, makes it illegal to deny
housing, employment, or public accommodations to a person based on their sexual orientation. "I was totally thrilled. I guess jubilation would be the word. It was just fabulous news," Sara Wiener told The Bulletin in Bend. Wiener is an openly lesbian woman who served on a committee that reviewed the ordinance for the council.

Additional challenges may still lie ahead. By law, opponents can repeal the law through a local referendum. To do that, they would have to gather 50% more signatures than were required for the referral effort: about 5,000, based on the recent voter numbers the city uses. Supporters said they will be ready to campaign in favor of the ordinance if it is ever sent to the ballot box, but they said they hope that isn't necessary. "I hope they wouldn't. They made an attempt to get it on the ballot and
failed. At some point you have to say we are going to stop trying to deny people equal rights," said city councilor John Hummel, who sponsored the ordinance.

Opponents, such as Eaton, have said they are not antigay but want voters to decide the issue.
Regardless of what happens with future efforts, supporters said they are celebrating the fact that Bend will have the ordinance--at least for now. "Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I can say Bend is another place in Oregon that says all kinds of people have a right to fairness. It's another town in the honor roll of communities that say, 'This is important to us,"' said openly gay Dorothy Leman, a writing teacher at Central Oregon Community College.

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