A state senate bill that would establish civil unions for same-sex couples will move forward without its twin goal of prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. A coalition of Republican and Democratic senators is drafting a new civil unions bill and planning to hold a public hearing next week. The bill will be identical to language within the established Senate Bill 1000, said Sen. Alan Bates of Ashland, a Democrat and a coalition member. It would insert the words "civil union" and "partners" alongside "marriage" and "husband and wife" in state law.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski began the session in January by appealing to lawmakers to outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and public services. On Monday, Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor said civil unions and antidiscrimination legislation remain priorities for the governor. "If the senate leadership believes proceeding with two separate bills is the best strategy to move this forward so he can get legislation on his desk for a signature, then he wants them to proceed," she said.
It's uncertain whether a civil unions bill or a separate antidiscrimination measure can move through the Democratic senate and the Republican-led house. The Oregon Family Council, which publishes a Christian voters' guide, has opposed civil unions and the antidiscrimination legislation. Separating the
civil unions portion doesn't "really change much," said Tim Nashif, the council's political director.
Officials of Basic Rights Oregon, a gay rights advocacy group, said they have not given up on either goal. "It would be a mistake to read into any kind of legislative maneuvering that one piece is more important or more viable than the other, because both are supported by a majority of the Oregon public," said Rebekah Kassell, a Basic Rights spokeswoman. (AP)