All Rights reserved
The Oregon legislature ended its second-longest session ever at 6:20 a.m. Friday without passing a governor-supported bill that would have both allowed civil unions for same-sex couples and provided protection from discrimination to gays and lesbians. House speaker Karen Minnis bottled up the senate-passed bill, which failed to get a vote. "The Oregon legislature missed an enormous opportunity this session to take a strong moral stand against discrimination. That the session ended without civil unions or antidiscrimination protections is nothing less than an outrage," said Roey Thorpe, executive director of the gay rights group Basic Rights Oregon.
The fight to pass civil unions and antidiscrimination laws during the 2005 session began with the introduction of Senate Bill 1000, which was requested by Gov. Ted Kulongoski and sponsored by a bipartisan group of Oregon senators. Basic Rights Oregon coordinated a massive lobbying effort, and after extensive hearings on and revisions to the bill, SB1000 passed the Oregon senate 19-10 in July.
The bill stalled, however, in the Oregon house of representatives, where, despite majority support, Minnis not only refused to allow public debate or a public vote but also resorted to extraordinary measures to kill the legislation. Several weeks ago in what has been called the "Mid-Day Massacre," Minnis gutted SB1000, which would have granted critical rights and protections to Oregon families, and locked the bill in a budget committee to prevent a majority of legislators from forcing the bill to a floor vote.
Days later, a new bill--HB3508--revived hope for the proposal. But in another outrageous move, just one day before the speaker was required to assign the bill to committee, Minnis suspended a 140-year-old rule, which could have allowed a majority of legislators in the house to vote on the bill before the session ended. "Speaker Minnis flagrantly abused our democracy to preserve discrimination and protect prejudice," said Thorpe. "All Oregonians ought to be concerned by her willful determination to subvert the public process and the will of a majority of fair-minded Oregonians and legislators who support civil unions and believe discrimination is wrong."