The Oregon ballot, as you likely remember, featured measures dealing with the legalization of marijuana and privately owned casinos, two politically charged and morally oriented subject areas. Those measures failed.
In 2014, you can pretty much plan on being asked to weigh in, again, on a third important social issue: same-sex marriage, which won at the polls in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota this time around.
As Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s flagship marriage-equality group, and other backers work on their plans, here’s what we hope they come up with:
A proposal that gets our state — in which the constitution has been amended to define marriage as a one-man, one-woman proposition — out of the “marriage” business altogether, a business we never should have been in in the first place.
Here’s what we mean:
Rather than handing out marriage licenses, the state could issue every interested couple — same-sex or heterosexual — a civil union license and contract that covers all the rights and responsibilities currently owned by married people.
With that license/contract in hand, a couple would be free to do whatever they wanted in terms of a ceremony, religious or otherwise, and they could call their union whatever they wanted: A marriage, domestic partnership, etc.
Some same-sex marriage supporters likely won’t be truly satisfied unless the state and by extension all of its residents acknowledge those unions as “marriages.” They want that brand of validation, even though in some people’s minds, marriage simply does refer to a man and a woman; that’s not a value judgment, just a question of semantics.
But semantics aren’t really the point, and Basic Rights Oregon’s post-election press release aims to spell out what the point really is: “As more and more Americans are having conversations with gay and lesbian friends and family, they’re coming to realize that this is not a political issue. This is about love, commitment and family.”
They are correct.
So let’s have our state sanction the legal and financial aspects of couples’ unions and leave the name of those unions up to the couples and their families and friends. That’s a compromise, and a corrective turn in state government terminology, that we all ought to be able to get behind. (sl)