Kitzhaber signs Oregon gay marriage petition

February 14, 2013, 2:21 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Gov. Barbara Roberts attended a Valentine's Day kick-off event for a campaign to reverse Oregon's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, a spokesman said.

Both signed a sponsorship petition for the effort, said Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael.

Basic Rights Oregon, the state's leading gay-rights group, formed a campaign organization to get a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot. For a measure to reverse the gay-marriage ban, the group first needs to collect 1,000 valid sponsorship signatures.

Basic Rights Oregon spokeswoman Amy Ruiz said the group sponsored 14 events Wednesday night and Thursday across Oregon.

"I'm fairly confident we have met our 1,000-signature mark and probably have much more than that," she said late Thursday. "We believe we have met our goal."

The Portland event drew more than 700 people, she estimated.

To qualify for the November 2014 ballot, supporters will need 116,284 signatures.

Oregon voters in 2004 approved a ban on gay marriage 57 percent to 43 percent. Basic Rights Oregon contends that since then, approval of gay marriage in other states and vocal public support from President Barack Obama have helped shift momentum.

Roberts, Oregon's only female governor, said, "As more and more people come to understand that committed couples, whether they are gay or straight, hope to marry for similar reasons, they're coming to realize that this is much more than a political issue."

"This is about love, commitment and family," she said in a prepared statement.

But the Oregon Family Council said it has been preparing to oppose such a measure and both sides would have a difficult fight.

A 2007 Oregon law allows same-sex couples to register a domestic partnership that provides the same rights as marriage under state law. Last year, Oregon had 558 domestic partnerships through October, according to the Oregon Health Authority, which tracks vital statistics.

Basic Rights Oregon decided against seeking a same-sex marriage initiative in the 2012 election, saying at the time that it wasn't clear the effort could win.

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