Prisons in Oregon are preparing to offer inmates who claim a same-sex partnership special privileges specifically denied married inmates, a memo from state officials has confirmed.
The e-mailed memo from Max Williams, director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, was sent to workers in his department.
The memo referenced two state laws, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2007, through which lawmakers created legally recognized partnerships for same-sex duos.
“After the New Year, the Department of Corrections will be implementing two new laws that were passed by the Legislative Assembly and signed by the governor into law during last year’s regular legislative session,” the note began. “The new anti-discrimination and family fairness laws, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2007, establish and extend new legal protections and benefits to affected persons.”
The memo said lawyers have been in consultation over the changes, and as a result, “the Department is reviewing and will be amending its rules as the Department determines is necessary and advisable in order to comply with the requirements of the new laws.”
Specifically, the e-mail said, the department will change its rules so that, “inmates that have entered into a RDP [registered domestic partnership] will be allowed to live in the same facility and unit, subject to the needs of orderly operation, safety and security of the facility.”
That just doesn’t make sense, or meet the goals of any “fairness” concept, according to one Department of Corrections worker who raised concerns about it.
“The problem I have with this is that the department will not allow heterosexual inmates who are married to live together in the same institution or on the same housing unit,” said the employee, whose name was being withheld from publication.
“The new policy gives homosexual RDP inmates the special privilege of living together but denies it for heterosexual married inmates, just the opposite of what the policy is trying to achieve, and discriminates against heterosexuals based on their sexual orientation,” the employee continued.
“In Oregon, if you’re a homosexual inmate, only then will you be allowed to live with your partner.
“Not only is this a discriminatory policy but it will be an enforcement nightmare for correctional staff. If the RDP inmates are allowed to live on the same housing unit, are we going to allow them to shower together or … let them sleep next to each other? And if we don’t allow them to do those things will we be sued for discrimination because of their sexual orientation? The whole thing is just nuts!” the employee said.
The state memo does note that such inmates will not be allowed “to cell together,” but does not define the term.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections initially told WND that married heterosexual couples wouldn’t be offered the option because the prisons are not coed. But she called back later to say after consulting with attorneys for the state, the department’s response was that officials were working to implement the state’s laws.
The memo does include instructions that Senate Bill 2 “recognizes and declares that the opportunity to obtain employment or housing or to use and enjoy places of public accommodation without discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age or disability is a civil right under Oregon law.”
The other legislative plan, House Bill 2007, “grants legal recognition in Oregon to same-sex domestic partnerships,” the memo continues.
“Establishing a registered domestic partnership (RDP) affords same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities that are granted under state law through a marriage contract,” the memo said. “HB 2007 also provides that any privilege, immunity, right, benefit or responsibility granted or imposed by statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to an individual because the individual is or was married … is granted on equivalent terms, substantive and procedure, to an individual because the individual is or was in a domestic partnership.”
“Because the Department grants certain privileges and benefits to inmates on the basis of marriage (e.g., the opportunity to participate in a ceremony to solemnize a marriage, the opportunity to possess and wear a plain wedding band), the Department will be extending these privileges and benefits to inmates that enter into an RDP in order to comply with the requirements of HB 2007.”
The issue also is the subject of a court hearing, scheduled Dec. 28. The Alliance Defense Fund is seeking a delay in the law until all votes on the issue are counted, an effort county clerks have refused to pursue.
An organization called Concerned Oregonians worked on a referendum that would put HB 2007 and SB 2 before Oregon voters in 2008.
But when the state declared the referendum was five signatures short, and county clerks refused to correct mistakes that had been made in the counting, the ADF filed a lawsuit.
In a new column on the issue, Alan Sears, chief of the ADF, noted that the issue of marriage consisting of – and only of – one man and one woman is supported overwhelmingly in the United States. Twenty-seven of 28 states where voters have decided the question, they have limited marriage to one man and one woman.
“Those seeking to fabricate same-sex ‘marriage’ have long recognized the American public is a roadblock to their success. In 1998, after ADF-allied litigation allowed Alaska citizens to vote on (and pass) a constitutional amendment barring same-sex unions, the ACLU executive director declared: ‘Today’s results prove that certain fundamental issues should not be left up to a majority vote.’
“When the (new) referendum was submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State on Sept. 26, signatures exceeded the required number by more than 6,000. However, the Secretary of State announced there were not enough signatures to sustain the referendum. The evaluated ‘sample’ was said to be only five signatures short. If you wonder how this could happen, you aren’t alone. As it turns out, there is a very clear explanation – many of the signatures were wrongfully rejected,” Sears said.
“Signatures were invalidated for allegedly not matching their voter registration cards, being illegible, or coming from unregistered voters. But according to ADF attorneys who examined the signatures, several of those kicked out did match, were legible, and the affected voters actually were registered. In other words, many valid signers were ignored,” he continued.
Clerks have “adamantly”‘ resisted efforts by signers to authenticate their signatures. “One county clerk even told a rejected signer, in person, and to their face, ‘tough nuggets,'” Sears said.
The lawsuit alleges Oregon voters from 12 counties have been disenfranchised by administrative fiat, because their signatures were rejected and they were not allowed a procedure to restore them to the petition.
Bill Burgess, the clerk in Marion County, confirmed the state had given county clerks instructions to follow a “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.”
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski
The case developed 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.
David Crowe, a leader of Restore America, one of the groups coordinating the petition effort, told WND that there were a number of county clerks who 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.”
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.
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