Oregon lawmakers link antidiscrimination, civil unions bills
The Oregon senate will vote soon on a bill that combines antidiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians with a civil unions law for same-sex couples, senate leaders announced Wednesday. Senate backers earlier had originally planned to pursue the issues separately. But with time running short in the 2005 legislature, the plan now is to roll both into a single bill and bring it to a senate vote next week, they said.
Senate Democratic leader Kate Brown thinks there are enough votes in the Democrat-controlled senate to pass the measure, although it faces hurdles in the Republican-run house. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, and a bipartisan group of senators have been pushing for passage of a civil unions law as well as a statewide ban on discrimination against gays in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
At a news conference Wednesday, Brown and other backers said most of the senate's Democrats indicated this week that they want to vote on both issues together in one bill--even if it does face opposition in the house. Sen. Alan Bates said while the civil unions issue has gotten most attention
in recent weeks, he and others felt that the nondiscrimination provisions are important as well. "This is what's good for Oregon--to protect people who can't protect themselves," the Ashland Democrat said.
The civil unions provision, in particular, has drawn opposition from house Republicans, who say Oregon voters spoke clearly last November when they approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. House Republicans say civil unions are nothing more than "marriage by another name," and they instead are proposing granting a more limited list of "reciprocal benefits" to all nontraditional families. (AP)