Thursday, February 14, 2008


A lesbian couple in Colorado has challenged that state’s ban on same sex marriages passed in 2006:
Earlier this week, Ms. Burns and Ms. Schroeder filed a motion with the court claiming that Amendment 43, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, violated their constitutional right to equal protection. The measure was approved by 55 percent of Colorado voters 15 months ago.

“The American system does not allow for the tyranny of the majority,” said the couple’s lawyer, Mari Newman. “Marriage is a fundamental right, which should be for all Coloradans, not just some Coloradans.”

Nine states and the District of Columbia afford a variety of benefits to gay and lesbian couples, but only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage. Twenty-six states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, whose legality is also being weighed by the highest courts of Connecticut, California and Iowa.
In Oregon, voters approved an amendment to Oregon’s constitution in 2004 banning gay marriage. In 2007 the Oregon legislature passed a domestic partnership bill, called the Oregon Family Fairness Act. The law provides several major rights to same-sex couples that were previously only given to married couples, including the ability to file jointly on insurance forms, hospital visitation rights, and rights relating to the deceased partner.

While January 1, 2008 was the date The statute was supposed to take effect on January 1, 2008, but a court challenge delayed its implementation until a federal judge lifted the ban on February 1. The law went into effect that day and couples have been signing up. The law stops short of full-fledged marriage and offers none of the rights guaranteed to married spouses under federal law.

I talked with two good friends and asked them to say what the passage of this law means to them:
My Partner, Barbara, and I have been together for over 10 years. We first met in 1980 and dated for a year. Then in 1998 something wonderful and exciting happened, we found each other again. And this time it was for good, our love and commitment for one another was stronger than ever! We retired and fulfilled our dreams and moved to Bend. We were guardedly optimist with Bend’s passing of the anti-discrimination laws and with several businesses in the private sector granting us “family” status, which gave us equal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples.

So now in 2008 we are asked, “What domestic partnership in Oregon means to us?” To Barbara and me it’s the final piece to the puzzle. We are from southern California and benefit from our domestic partner status granted us in 2002. Our current and future finances are secured through our California domestic partnership and now we enjoy complete validation with Oregon’s domestic partnership. To have the security of the rights and responsibilities now afford us in the state in which we reside is awesome.

It’s also an emotional journey in life, not being counted equal among your friends, family and neighbors. Not to have your relationship honored and recognized in the eyes of your peers. Not having your lifetime commitment of love to another acknowledged or mean the same as others. This all is now changed and we have the sense of wholeness, thanks to so many that worked so hard. We are elated that Oregon has eliminated discrimination of gays and lesbians, providing us with that missing link in our relationship, a legal validation. This validation not only gives us the sense of wholeness it makes us feel part of society’s main stream living. It’s this support and acknowledgment within the social context that makes us feel complete. As strange as it may seem the legal validation of our love and relationship solidifies the commitment.

In California I was instrumental in getting Los Angeles county employees with domestic partners, parity with legally married couples. Those rights and responsibilities granted to domestic partners provided pension and medical benefits to the employee and their families. The excitement and joys Barbara and I experienced then are relived now and especially for all Oregonians. We are all truly blessed.

Our journey is ended and as you can see Domestic Partnership status in Oregon is definitely the final piece to our puzzle and what a beautiful picture it is!

Congratulations to all, Cathy
Looking Back: At one point, 40 states in this country forbade the marriage of a white person to a person of color. Marriages between whites and persons of color were decried as “immoral” and “unnatural”. A Virginia judge upheld that state’s ban on interracial marriages saying, in language with the same tone as that being used in opposition to gay marriages today:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
In 1948, the California Supreme Court led the way in challenging racial discrimination in marriage and became the fist state high court to declare unconstitutional a ban on interracial marriage. The court pointed out that races don’t marry each other, people do. Restricting who can marry whom on that characteristic alone was therefore race discrimination. It took another 19 years for the U.S. Supreme Court to make the same ruling. Until 1967, in many states, a couple of mixed race could not get a marriage license, and if they went to another state and were married, when they returned home they could be arrested.

The same logic that banned interracial marriages has been used to ban same-sex marriage. In both cases, the appeal is religious. God help us! We’ve a long way to go before we accord truly equal rights to same-sex couples, but we celebrate this victory on the way to that goal.

- Milo

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