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Domestic partnership in Oregon

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In April and May 2007, following a previous attempt in 2005, the Oregon state legislature passed legislation to make virtually all of the rights afforded to married couples available to same-sex couples. The new status will be referred to in Oregon law as a domestic partnership, avoiding the use of the terms marriage or civil union. Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill on May 9, 2007. While January 1, 2008 was the date the statute would have taken effect, a recent court challenge had delayed its implementation. It was resolved on February 1, 2008, and the law went into effect that day, with registrations beginning on February 4, 2008.[1]

History Edit

On July 8, 2005, Oregon state senators approved legislation to allow same-sex civil unions. As originally written, Oregon Senate Bill 1000 would create civil unions and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, public accommodations and public services.[1] The vote at the state capitol in Salem was 19-10 in favor of the measure.

The Republican Speaker of the Oregon House, Karen Minnis, announced that she would not let the bill be passed. On July 21, the House performed a series of moves where the bill was amended, removing most of its language and replacing it with different text (seen by some to be a "gut and stuff"[2] maneuver). The new text of Senate Bill 1000 no longer contained language about sexual orientation, prohibition of discrimination, nor civil unions. Instead, it reaffirmed the recent state constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage and proposed to create "reciprocal beneficiary agreements" [3]. "Reciprocal beneficiaries" could be any two people prohibited by law from marrying each other, such as a "widowed mother and her unmarried son," and would not have the rights and obligations of married persons, specifically excluding employer-granted benefits such as health insurance or retirement benefits. Reciprocal beneficiaries would be granted inheritance rights, and the power to make medical or financial decisions if the reciprocal beneficiary was incapacitated.

The changes effectively killed momentum to pass the bill, which died in committee.

However, after the November 2006 mid-term elections Democrats won a majority of the formerly Republican-controlled house[4], and in early 2007, Democrats re-introduced a bill in the House similar to the 2005 legislation. The bill adopted the term "domestic partnership" to describe these unions; the terms "marriage" or "civil union" were absent. This bill enjoyed a relatively easy passage through the legislature, when compared to its 2005 predecessor. Passed by the House on April 17, 2007 (by a vote of 34-26) and by the Senate on May 2, 2007 (by a vote of 21-9), Governor Kulongoski signed the Oregon Family Fairness Act on May 9, 2007. The law was scheduled to take effect January 1, 2008, but was delayed by a preliminary injunction until after a hearing on February 1, 2008, where the injunction was lifted.

Differences in the legislation Edit

Given the use of the term "domestic partnerships," the Oregon legislation is more in line with Washington state's recognition of same-sex relationships, as opposed to the civil union legislation created in Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire (Massachusetts and California are currently the only US states that sanction same-sex marriage).

Oregon's legislation has no ceremony requirement. All marriage and civil union legislation require a ceremony, whether religious or civil, to be considered valid. In Oregon couples are only required to register their domestic partnerships through the submission of a paper form. Additionally, the Oregon statute contemplates that the domestic partnerships are only valid in the state of Oregon. All other marriage and civil union laws assume the validity of such relationships in every other jurisdiction. These changes may have been placed to avoid any conflict with the Oregon constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Delays Edit

In 2007, an attempt to force a referendum to repeal these laws before they take effect failed to gather enough signatures. Such an effort, accomplished by a petition putting the laws to voter approval via a ballot question, would have delayed enforcement of the law to January 1, 2009.[5] [6] In September 2007, groups challenging the amendment submitted approximately 63,000 signatures in favor of repealing the legislation; the minimum number of signatures required for a referendum is 55,179. The Secretary of State's office later determined that only 55,063 valid signatures were collected, thereby removing a barrier to a January 1, 2008 effective date.[7] On December 28, federal judge Michael W. Mosman issued an injunction preventing implementation of the law, after hearing a legal challenge (by a group opposing the measure) criticizing the method used by the Secretary of State's office to determine what constitutes a valid signature.[8] A hearing on this issue was then scheduled for February 1, 2008, when the injunction was lifted, allowing the law to go in force immediately, with registrations beginning on February 4, 2008.[9][10]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Ruling Allows Legal Status for Partners of Same Sex - New York Times

External links Edit

  • Concerned Oregonians, a group seeking to prevent Oregon House Bill 2007 (2007) and Oregon Senate Bill 2 (2007) from becoming law
  • Basic Rights Oregon, a group committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oregon

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