Ore. gay marriage petition drive launched

Supports of same-sex marriage collect signatures at a booth in Waterfront Park in Portland, Ore., as part of a petition to get the initiative onto the 2014 November ballot. Friday, July 26, 2013. (Douglas Key/KOIN 6 News)
Supports of same-sex marriage collect signatures at a booth in Waterfront Park in Portland, Ore., as part of a petition to get the initiative onto the 2014 November ballot. Friday, July 26, 2013. (Douglas Key/KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Supporters of same-sex marriage began a massive statewide effort Friday to seeking to collect enough signatures put the issue before voters in November 2014.

As early as 6 a.m., dozens of volunteers were gathering signatures at a petition booth at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. The booth is one of several being manned by more than 1,000 volunteers in cities and towns throughout the state this weekend.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer signed a petition to get same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2014 (July 26, 2013, Blumenauer Twitter feed)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer signed a petition to get same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2014 (July 26, 2013, Blumenauer Twitter feed)

Among the first-day signers is Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who tweeted:

Just signed a petition to get Oregon Marriage Equality on the ballot for November. Have you?

For Mary Li and Becky Kennedy, signing the petition has special meaning. The Portland couple was the first in Oregon to receive a same-sex marriage license in 2004.

Becky Kennedy and Mary Li were the first Oregon couple to get a same-sex marriage license in 2004. They signed a petition to get the issue on the 2014 ballot, July 26, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Becky Kennedy and Mary Li were the first Oregon couple to get a same-sex marriage license in 2004. They signed a petition to get the issue on the 2014 ballot, July 26, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Later that year the license was voided by the Supreme Court after Oregonians approved a measure by a margin of 57% to 43% to amend the Oregon constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

“It’s exciting. Butterflies,” Li told KOIN 6 News. “It brings back memories of where we were several years ago.”

They joined hundreds of others who grabbed the petitions to overturn the same-sex marriage ban at the ballot box.

“As our children have grown and gotten older, their questions continue to come. ‘Why are we treated differently? Why aren’t you and Mommy able to get married?’ It puts a toll on your family,” Li said.

The Freedom to Marry Initiative is being organized by the Oregon United for Marriage Coalition. To qualify for the November 2014 ballot, the initiative needs 116,000 valid signatures. Organizers are hoping to collect 10,000 by the end of the weekend.

Since then, same-sex marriage has become legal in neighboring California and Washington. Organizers hope that’s a sign that Oregonians are ready to reverse the ban.

Eric Warshaw and Steve Knox were the second couple to get their same-sex marriage license in 2004. When it was invalidated they headed to Canada to get married. That was the only way the two doctors would be allowed to join a private Portland health club as a family.

“Only one of us was allowed to get in, but (the rules changed) if we were able to get married somewhere,” Warshaw said. “We could get in as a family, so that’s why we went to Canada so we could be like any other family out there.”

Opponents of the plan with Protect Marriage Oregon intend to fight the initiative. One of their big concerns is what will be taught in schools if the measure is approved.

–  The Associated Press contributed information to this report.

To sign the petitions:

Oregon United for Marriage (in favor of same-sex marriage)

Protect Marriage Oregon (opposed to same-sex marriage)

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