Judge Michael Mosman, being sworn into office in 2003
A federal judge in Portland has halted Oregon’s plans to create same-sex domestic partnerships, with rights and privileges identical to married couples, on Jan. 1 by granting a preliminary injunction preventing the new law from taking effect.
The ruling yesterday came from U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman on a request from lawyers for the Alliance Defense Fund, who argued the state illegally disenfranchised registered voters who signed petitions to bring the issue before voters, but were improperly rejected by county officials.
“Our country is founded on the basic principle of government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the ADF, said. “It is un-American that Oregon citizens are being denied the right to have their vote count on this matter.”
The ADF had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Oregonians in several counties after the Secretary of State and clerks’ offices in 12 counties invalidated their petition signatures for a referendum that would allow voters to decide, again, whether they in fact approve of “civil unions.”
Many petition signers had sought, personally, to affirm their signatures in order to overcome a publicized referendum deficit of five names, but were rejected by county officials.
After arguments, the judge hearing the case granted the ADF motion for a preliminary injunction, meaning the law will not take effect Jan. 1 as scheduled. Another hearing is set for Feb. 1, officials with ADF said.
The state already had begun implementation of the new law, with plans confirmed by prison officials to allow inmates who are part of a domestic partnership to live in the same prison facility, and in the same unit, a privilege specifically denied married inmates.
“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 one state Department of Corrections 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.
“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 case developed when 54 state lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski rejected the will of the people to approve and sign into law House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2 during the 2007 Legislature.
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.
SB 2, state officials say, “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.”
House Bill 2007, “grants legal recognition in Oregon to same-sex domestic partnerships,” they said. That is the plan targeted by the ADF lawsuit.
An organization called Concerned Oregonians had 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 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.
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