While LGBT activists celebrate substantial gains nationwide in marriage equality and some basic protections for LGBT people, activists in Oregon are gearing up to defeat what is apparently the only anti-LGBT initiatives that could be headed to the ballot box this November.
Antigay activists in Oregon are expected to begin collecting signatures today on an initiative that would allow businesses to refuse service to anyone involved in a same-sex marriage or ceremony celebrating such a union, under the guide of "religious freedom."
Similar in tone and scope to Arizona's vetoed "license to discriminate" bill and other "religious freedom" protection laws recently enacted in Mississippi and Tennessee, Oregon's Initiative Petition 52 specifically mentions same-sex marriages and civil unions, whereas laws in other states only alluded to the target audience that would be discriminated against.
The bill would essentially create a broad, categorical exemption to the state's existing nondiscrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, and a number of other characteristics. As submitted, the Oregon initiative creates far-reaching exemptions for businesses or individuals, to refuse to provide services, facilities, or goods to "celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage, civil union, domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements, if doing so violates the person's 'deeply held religious beliefs.'" The terms, including "deeply held religious beliefs," "participate," "support," and "ceremony" are all undefined in the initiative.
To put the initiative before Oregon voters in November, the antigay coalition needs to gather 87,213 valid signatures by July 3, according to the newly formed pro-LGBT coalition Oregon United Against Discrimination.
"Oregon is once again a testing ground for opponents of equality," Peter Zuckerman, press secretary for Oregon United Against Discrimination, tells The Advocate. "We have faced 35 antigay ballot measures, more than any other state, and are the only state where an antigay measure is heading toward the ballot this year. We need to defeat this discrimination measure — and win by a big enough margin so that the same campaign is not exported to states all across the U.S."
That pro-equality group, led by the same team directing Oregon's multitiered effort to enact marriage equality, came out swinging today with its first TV ad, slated to air across the state in opposition to the "license to discriminate" initiative.
Featuring renowned civil rights activist Kathleen Saadat, the 30-second spot compares Oregon's Initiative Petition 52 to Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and similarly racist policies that allowed employers to hire only white people, placing infamous signs reading "Whites Only."
Watch the new advertisement below, and find out more about the campaign to fight discrimination in Oregon here.