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Oregon ruling denying petitioners' rights appealed

The Alliance Defense Fund has filed an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that Oregon residents have no right to have their signatures counted when they sign ballot initiative petitions, in an attempt to restore voters’ rights in the state.

The issue arose over the state legislature’s approval, and the governor’s signature on, legislation that created “domestic partnerships” for homosexuals and lesbians in Oregon, legislation that overwrote the expressed will of voters in the state.

Several organizations worked to bring the new law to a vote of the people, but state officials said they had invalidated enough signatures on petitions for them to not allow voters to review the issue.

Because the margin of failure was only a handful of votes, several individuals went to their county offices to determine whether their valid signatures had been counted, and when they discovered they hadn’t been counted, insisted that they be added.

County officials, citing orders from state officials, refused to do that, and the ADF sued.

Then U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman allowed the state law creating lookalike marriage for homosexuals to take effect, concluding the state has little significant obligation to count voters’ signatures on petitions.

That decision now has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Notice is hereby given that Plaintiffs Phillip Lemons, Susan Jarrett; Myrna Hines; Jay Sherman … and disenfranchised signers Nos. 1-26, hereby appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th federal Circuit from the judgment denying the plaintiffs relief…,” the ADF document said.

“In America, every citizen’s voice counts,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. “Government bureaucracy cannot be allowed to disenfranchise Oregon voters. One of their most important rights cannot be tossed aside.”

The original lawsuit was on behalf of Oregonians who had their signatures “wrongfully rejected” from the petition on Referendum 303, which would allow voters to decide the “domestic partnership” issue.

Stunningly, at a Feb. 1 hearing, Mosman, “stated that voters in Oregon have no legal right to have their petition signatures counted,” the ADF said.

“Their signatures were genuine, and no legitimate reason existed to refuse to allow these registered voters to participate in the democratic process,” said Nimocks. “Our country is founded on the basic principle of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It should stay that way in Oregon.”

To Mosman’s courtroom, the ADF had submitted briefs showing county clerks simply refused petition signers’ requests to count their signatures after they had been “wrongfully rejected.”

The petition signature total fell just five short of what was needed in Oregon to put the issue to voters, prompting the proponents to seek a review.

“The right to exercise one’s voice in the democratic process is a crucial one, and state and county officials must not infringe upon that right,” Nimocks said.

The ADF argued, “The only real dispute in this case is whether the Secretary of State and county clerks can constitutionally refuse to give excluded signers notice that their signatures have been rejected and refuse to give them any opportunity – even when they learn of the disenfranchisement on their own – to verify their signatures and make sure that their vote counts…”

The Associated Press reported that advocates for legitimizing same-sex “couples,” were “beaming.”

“We’re a family. We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” the wire service reported Cathy Kravitz of Portland celebrating.

The idea of same-sex couples already had been rejected soundly by voters in Oregon. In 2004, several thousand same-sex couples were given marriage licenses in Multnomah County, prompting Oregonians to approve by a 57-43 percent margin a constitutional ban on homosexual marriages. A court later nullified the licenses.

That aligned with 148 years of precedent in the state. However, 54 legislators in the statehouse during 2007 and Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski ignored that, working together on the new homosexual couples proposal.

They even included a section in a new law suggesting schools address the “attitudes” of those who do not choose to support those relationships.

The state already has 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. Same-sex couples have have been registered since Mosman’s ruling.

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 then “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.

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.


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