For the second time on the same issue this year, the expressed will of voters in Oregon is being overruled by a few officials in key government positions, and several pro-family groups say the officials are letting their personal beliefs affect their official actions.
“Oregon voters who support traditional marriage and morality are being denied their right to vote, for purely political reasons by state and county elections officials in the pockets of Oregon’s homosexual lobby,” charged a statement released by Concerned Oregonians, which sought to put HB 2007 and SB 2 on a coming election ballot.
Those two bills were rammed through the last Legislature, and make up a combination that bestows on same-sex couples all the rights given married couples, critics said, as well as providing vast new legal power for those who choose homosexual, bisexual or other alternative lifestyles in their newly designated status as protected minorities.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski
The first case of the minority rule happened during the legislature, when 54 state lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski rejected the will of the people to approve and sign into Law HB 2007 and SB 2.
For 148 years Oregon had recognized marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and voters four times have addressed the issue, most recently in 2004 when they collected more than a million votes and by a substantial 57-43 percent margin decided to keep traditional marriage defined as being between only one man and only one woman.
But the newest legislation simply rejects that vote, and even makes a move to address such citizen “attitudes,” requiring schools to seek to change the minds of those who don’t support homosexual duos.
The newest case comes on the decision by the state Secretary of State’s office that those collecting signatures to put the issues on the election ballot fell 116 signatures short of the required 55,179, after turning in 63,000 names.
The state has a process to check a certain number of names, and then approve or disqualify others based on the ones checked.
David Crowe, a leader of Restore America, one of the groups coordinating the petition effort, told WND that there are a number of county clerks who have colluded with state officials who endorse the special privileges for homosexuals to prevent people from voting on the issues.
“It’s political,” he said. “There are people who are hostile to us in three or four counties who are in collusion with state officials behind the scenes, those who we know are not for us.”
The offense comes, however, not from those perceived attitudes, but the results, he said. When the result came so close, and it became obvious that some legitimate signatures had been disallowed, Crowe said, he was told there was no recourse to have any signatures reconsidered.
Bill Burgess, the clerk in Marion County, confirmed not only that was the case, but that the state had given county clerks instructions to follow that “precedent” and not correct any incorrectly classified signatures they may have been told about.
“We also have a legal obligation to follow the guidelines and precedents of the past and our attorney has told us, and the Secretary of State has advised us that there is no place in this petition signature checking process for a person to come in later on and attest that that was their signature,” he told WND.
“There’s no direct ban [on corrections],” he said. “Well, it’s not specified, and both the Secretary of State and my legal counsel have told me not to go there.”
He said those who check the signatures – employees of the clerk’s office – are careful when they go through them. “We have experience with that,” he said, “county petitions, recall petitions, these are the same people checking the people on petitions.”
He said his office’s workers “have to rise above any self-interest” in such work. And he said the only thing that could force a change in the procedures would be a judge.
Crowe said he knew of the instructions from the Secretary of State to counties not to make any corrections in the tabulation; he said he had gotten a copy of a state e-mail to that effect.
“They are advising their people to close this off,” he told WND. ‘They’re telling them a half-truth. They are saying, ‘You don’t have to consider these signatures.’”
Crowe said while there’s nothing in the rules requiring it, counties are “free” to do that if they choose.
But he said Burgess is a Democrat and a vocal supporter of “lesbian state Sen. Kate Brown for Secretary of State.”
Crowe said a team of lawyers is reviewing the situation now, and soon will recommend a coming course of action.
Jean Straight, a deputy Secretary of State in Oregon, challenged the claim that personal beliefs could have been influential.
“That is not correct,” she said. “We have a process that we follow. … I know that they’re upset, but it doesn’t have a thing to do with a personal agenda.”
She told WND that during the counting and verifying process, supporters of the petition were allowed to be there, and opponents also were invited.
“They both had an opportunity to question signatures,” she told WND.
But Crowe suggested there needs to be a better way than this case, where he said a registered voter who signed the petition, then discovered his name had been thrown out, is left with no recourse.
“When is it right to refuse to recognize a valid signature on a petition submitted to the Secretary of State by the citizens of Oregon?” he asked. “When the signer shows up at the County Elections Office to prove their signature is valid and should be recognized as such? When that same signer was in fact a registered voter at the time of signing and can prove it? When that same signer is not allowed to file anything to prove his/her claim? When county elections officials have decided amongst themselves they are not going to review any of the signatures they have rejected? When a county clerk or elections supervisor is personally opposed to the purpose of the petitions signed by the rejected signer?”
“That is precisely what is occurring in the office of Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess,” Crowe said. “On Friday, Burgess’ office staff – knowing that a registered voter whose valid signature was rejected would soon arrive to request her rejected signature be validated – REFUSED her request. With two witnesses present, the petition signer was repeatedly told, ‘We are not required to review our work.’”
“Burgess knows that with each validated signature, the 116 signature shortfall announced earlier by the state elections division is diminished by 20 signatures in the formula used by the elections division. All that is really needed to reverse that decision and place NB 2007 on the 2008 ballot is six signers who signatures were rejected on false or erroneous grounds,” Crowe said.
Crowe said Burgess is “using his position to deny the right of several citizens of Marion County to support a petition that he opposes.”
Several different pro-family individuals and organizations endorsed the petition drive, including former state lawmaker Marylin Shannon, who worked with Let Oregon Vote.
She said Oregonians have never given a million votes to any other issue or candidate until the marriage vote, and 34 of 36 counties specified marriage was to be between one man and one woman.
Crowe said a remaining option would be an initiative, which requires about 82,000 signatures. That was the process used in 2004 to give residents the opportunity to limit marriage to a man and a woman, a plan overturned by the latest legislature.
Shannon told WND she observed the pro-homosexual lawmakers who held the majority in the Oregon Legislature. “They were intoxicated with their power. They had the power and they were going to do it,” she said. Several issues were raised during debate, such as the law’s impact on prisons and other institutes, but lawmakers decided against addressing those concerns.
John Fortmeyer, publisher of the Christian News Northwest has reported that it’s apparent the pro-homosexual community is concerned that the voters – again – would choose traditional marriage.
An organization called Know Thy Neighbor, he reported, in a maneuver some residents could find intimidating, is planning to obtain – and publicize – the names of everyone who signs a petition seeking to have voters address such defining issues as marriage.
Among the groups whose members supported the initiative effort were the Oregon Republican Party, Oregon Family Council and others.
Shannon said one group that was very active is called “Reclaim the Vote” and is made up primarily of young Russian Christians who have come to the United States in recent years.
Critics report the legislature’s results fail to provide a sufficient religious exemption to protect churches and religious organizations from being forced to hire homosexual individuals, and further it leaves to “a court to decide what is or is not closely connected with the primary purposes of the church.”
The pair of plans also would require school districts to teach homosexual, bisexuality and transgenderism in their classrooms, and the domestic partnership proposal itself, would create discrimination, the groups said.
“Only two unrelated individuals of the same gender can enter domestic partnerships. A man and a woman cannot choose to enter into a domestic partnership. Their only option in marriage,” it said. “If domestic partnerships are genuinely distinct from marriage, Oregon should allow all heterosexual and same-sex couples to choose a domestic partnership,” it said.
The Oregon Family Council noted that both of the plans “are deeply troubling.”
“They legitimize a lifestyle that the Scripture clearly condemns and we believe holds trouble consequences for Oregon’s future. … We are dedicated to continue the fight for traditional marriage in Oregon as long as it takes.”
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