LGBT Oregon Gay Unions Bill Advances

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    Oregon Gay Unions Bill Advances
    by The Associated Press

    Posted: June 8, 2005 7:30 am ET

    (Salem, Oregon) A Senate panel passed a bill to create civil unions Tuesday, the latest step in the Legislature's battle over whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to have legally recognized relationships.

    The bill to extend the benefits and rights of marriage to gay couples passed on a partisan 3-2 vote, with Democrats in favor.

    It will now head to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass, setting up a tug-of-war with the Republican-controlled House, which is currently considering its own bill. That legislation would provide a more limited set of reciprocal rights to any two people over 18, including relatives.

    During Tuesday's often tense hearing, Sen. Charlie Ringo, D-Beaverton, pressed Tootie Smith of the Defense of Marriage Coalition and other civil union opponents about what rights and benefits of marriage they would deny gay couples.

    "This is a list of 100," Ringo said, holding up a list of the benefits of traditional marriage that gay couples currently are not guaranteed under state law. They range from inheritance to hospital visitation rights.

    He repeatedly asked that civil union opponents point out which of the benefits on the list they were opposed to granting gay couples.

    "There are a lot more, and I think that's what this bill is about," he said.

    But Sen. Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro, argued that the bill goes against the will of the voters, who passed a ban on gay marriage last year.

    "(This bill) is simply 'gay marriage' by another name," Starr said.

    Starr said homosexuality is a choice that should not be supported in state law.

    The Senate Rules Committee heard approximately two hours of testimony — relatively short compared to the initial hearing, where hundreds of people showed up to testify.

    The civil unions bill is half of the bill Gov. Ted Kulongoski introduced earlier in the session. The full bill would have provided civil unions and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    The discrimination portion of the bill has not been voted on yet, and may be shelved for the session.

    While a bipartisan group of Senators support the civil unions bill, House Republicans have introduced what they consider a replacement for civil unions — called reciprocal benefits — that would extend about a dozen rights to any two people, including relatives.

    Supporters of that bill say it's a way to provide benefits — mainly concerning end-of-life issues and property rights — to nontraditional families without addressing sexual orientation in state law.

    But opponents say the bill is not enough to provide protections for gay Oregonians and their families.

    ©Associated Press 2005

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