This week Oregon United for Marriage submitted their first 2,000 signatures to qualify marriage equality for the Oregon ballot in 2014! ROP leaders signed to ensure that 29 of Oregon’s 36 counties were represented from the start, and 10 of the 17 Valentine’s Day parties to collect signatures were in small town Oregon, outside Salem and Portland.
Rural Oregon has a long history of working for dignity, advocating for LGBTQ fairness and mobilizing our communities to stand on the inclusive side of democracy. It is this history that positions rural and urban Oregon to move forward a ballot measure for Marriage Equality in 2014.
In the early 1990s, Ballot Measure 9 specifically targeted queers and would have created second-class citizenship in the Oregon Constitution. The Right was using Oregon as a testing ground and Rural Oregon was their organizing ground zero. In Columbia County you literally couldn’t go to the Post Office or the grocery store without being asked to sign onto Measure 9, and you had to walk by a giant sign saying “homosexuality is a sin.”
Rural Oregonians responded by convening conversations in living rooms across the state to figure out how to respond to protect each other, and to form local human dignity groups who were on the frontlines of the fight over Ballot Measure 9. They also determined that it was necessary for these groups to also be around for what was next to come. We knew there would be more attacks and not just on queers.
In 1992, the first 20 human dignity groups launched the Rural Organizing Project. In 1996, Basic Rights Oregon formed to take this fight to new levels.
This history is what allows Oregon to be well positioned to have this discussion about marriage in living rooms in every county in the state today. There are more than 50 human dignity groups across rural and small town Oregon. Over the last few years, over five rural counties ran multi-year local Our Towns campaigns for Marriage Equality. There were 15 stops on the Out in the Silence Tour in 2010, 10 of Oregon’s 36 counties hosted Marriage house parties in March of 2011 and this is just the beginning.
Congratulations Rural Oregon! We have been on the frontline of this fight for two decades together, and it is through the years of dedicated work of rural and small town Oregonians committed to inclusive democracy and basic human dignity that this day has come.