Our History

For the past two decades, Oregon has been a testing ground for anti-LGBT policies. Through five statewide and more than 25 local anti-LGBT ballot measures, the far right has long used this state to assess public resonance with anti-equality policies, test messages and build infrastructure. Since the first ballot measure in 1988, the right wing has spent well over $8 million on statewide ballot measures alone.

The campaign to pass a law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians began in 1973. Similar legislation has been introduced in every one of the seventeen regular legislative sessions over the past thirty-four years. In 2005, with the support of the Governor, the Senate passed an omnibus anti-discrimination and relationship rights bill, which a procedural maneuver by opponents in the House derailed. BRO’s electoral arm, the Equality PAC, succeeded in electing a fair-minded majority to the legislature in the 2006 election, leading to a more favorable reception this year.

In May of this year, Governor Kulongoski signed into law the Oregon Family Fairness Act, which grants a limited set of rights, responsibilities and protections – called Domestic Partnerships – to same-sex couples. He also signed the Oregon Equality Act, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Both laws will go into effect on January 1, 2008. Opposition groups, however, have begun to gather signatures to force a referendum on these two bills to the November 2008 ballot. Opponents have until late September 2007 to gather the necessary 55,179 signatures and have proven through numerous past efforts that they are capable of doing so.

We fully expect both the domestic partnerships law and the anti-discrimination law to be on the Oregon ballot in November 2008. The two laws will appear separately on the ballot. Ballot titles will be determined by the Attorney General’s office following certification – this process begins in October and could run into the new year. Voters will be asked to cast their ballot on whether to sustain each piece of legislation, or reject it. Thus, a “YES” vote will keep the legislation and lead to implementation, while a “no” vote will overturn it. Full text of the legislation will appear in the voters pamphlet distributed by the Secretary of State to every registered voter. These will be two measures of an expected 20-25 measures on the November 2008 ballot, including several anti-tax, anti-union, and anti-immigrant measures.

Founded in 1996, Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) is the state’s chief advocacy, education and political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With twelve full time staff plus a contract lobbyist, three offices around the state, more than 10,000 active contributors and 5,000 active volunteers, Basic Rights Oregon is a formidable force in Oregon. BRO is a 501(c)4 organization that maintains a 501(c)3 (Basic Rights Education Fund), a state candidate PAC and a ballot measure PAC. Combined, these organizations have an annual budget of close to $1 million.

In the last five years, our field team has built a grassroots network from the ground up. We have active volunteer teams in six communities throughout the state and we are nurturing and cultivating relationships elsewhere. Our communications team draws on a combined 15 years of experience in media, messaging and campaign leadership. And our development team has a proven track record of raising significant funds from a diverse pool of supporters through mail, phone, events, major donors and corporate sponsorships.

The organization and Oregon’s LGBT community have a history of waging large-scale statewide ballot measure campaigns. We beat back anti-gay ballot measures in 1992, 1994 and 2000. And in 2004, Oregon came the closest of any state to defeating a marriage amendment. This campaign had a budget of $3.1 million and engaged 10,000 volunteers.


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