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Oregon senate
panel OK's civil union bill

Oregon senate
panel OK's civil union bill


The Oregon senate is expected to vote next week on a civil union bill that would give gay and lesbian couples virtually all the legal rights available under marriage laws.

Gay couples would get benefits similar to those of married couples and gain protection against discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations under a bill approved by the Oregon senate rules committee. The senate is expected to vote on the measure next week in the first vote in either chamber of the legislature on creating a civil union law giving same-sex partners virtually all the legal rights available under marriage laws. Such rights could include inheritance benefits, like entitlement to pensions or to other property when a partner dies, and the right to make medical decisions for a partner. The bill, approved Thursday, also adds sexual orientation to a law that forbids discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, and several other factors. Senate majority leader Kate Brown, a Democrat from Portland and chief sponsor of the bill, believes the measure can pass in the senate, where it has bipartisan support. But the bill's chances aren't considered good in the Republican-run house. Some leaders there back an alternative proposal to grant limited "reciprocal" benefits to any two people over 18, including relatives and same-sex couples. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, supports civil unions and has made antidiscrimination protections for gays a high priority. Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, while Vermont grants civil union rights, and Connecticut will begin offering civil unions in October. Domestic partners in California have all rights and responsibilities of marriage conferred by the state except the ability to file joint income taxes. (AP)

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