Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oregon: Yay for Gays

Following the 34-26 vote in the Oregon House two weeks ago, the Senate decided yesterday by a margin of 21-9 to approve domestic partnership status for same-sex couples within the state, granting them all of the same state benefits as opposite-sex married couples. The Oregonian hailed it as "the biggest advance for gay rights in state history," and says Oregon now ranks "among the most gay friendly [states] in the nation." (Note please, how I am now linking to The Oregonian instead of The New York Times.)

This puts Oregon on par with New Jersey, where same-sex couples are entitled to exactly the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as married couples, with the sole exception of the use of the word "marriage" itself. In Oregon, however, it didn't take a lawsuit to force the legislature into action.

This is all very encouraging. Many of the social conservatives have built their strategy on the argument that legislatures have historically been responsible for the regulation of marriage, and that for courts to step in and "redefine" marriage is "judicial activism." They never thought they'd see the day when state legislatures would act of their own volition to remedy this imbalance. I suppose now maybe they'll try to argue that marriage can only be "redefined" by popular vote (even though the legislature, being directly accountable to the voting public, unlike most judges, is generally understood to represent popular sentiment). That's fine, I guess. Can I vote on your marriage?

It further underscores that civil marriage is an inevitability. As politicians and regular folk see that the sky doesn't fall, God doesn't hurl thunderbolts and heterosexuals don't go gay when you legalize protections for committed same-sex couples, the supposed rationale for keeping the term "marriage" exclusive to opposite-sex couples is simply going to vanish. Oregon's law establishes "domestic partnerships," even though that comes with legal protections and privileges far beyond what is known as a "domestic partnership" in California or New York City, for example. It is identical to the legal status for same-sex couples in New Jersey, but there it's termed a "civil union." This serves to highlight the silliness of maintaining a pretense of distinction between terms. If an Oregon domestic partnership is the same as a New Jersey civil union, and both are (within their respective states) the same as a marriage, why not just call them a marriage?

* * * * *

Things are going well so far. Starbuck has quickly assumed alpha-cat status and is running the household. Rocky is still a little depressed, but is coming along.

I've had a pretty full social calendar. On Tuesday I met up with Hot Toddy for happy hour, and was introduced to his pal Pony. Together they produce a series of hilarious podcasts, which for some reason (inexplicable to me) are called The Todd & Pony Show. I am pleased to say that I was a paragon of restraint and refined social graces on my first night out as a resident of Portland. At least, that's the way I remember it...

Tonight I was treated to a lovely homecooked meal by Quinn, with whom I've maintained a friendship since fourth grade. (I even briefly dated her in high school; why didn't that work out, I wonder?) She has a beautiful home and an even more lovely family, and everything is just going so well for her right now, it's like a fairytale. I guess I'm the fairy.

* * * * *

I've been sending out resumes like some crazy unemployed person. Tomorrow I have my first local interview! It's not for a specific job, it's with a staffing agency I sent my information to. I like that, though. It's an opportunity for me to go in and explain to them that, for the moment at least, I'm not looking for "a" job, I'm looking for "the" job, and I'm willing to be patient (errmmm...for a little while...I am living at my parents' house) to find just the right opportunity. Hopefully they will have access to leads you can't find on Craigslist. So, here's to hoping I don't say anything stupid, or, if I do, that I recover brilliantly.


Gino said...

i thought OR already had that.

Andy said...

I think -- you know, I'm new in town -- that Multnomah County (where Portland is) had domestic partner benefits, but that is different than having a statewide legal structure that is parallel to marriage. Multnomah County did issue civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, but that was stopped by court order.

Gino said...

then maybe it was a statewide referendom defining marriage as man/woman only then?

i just remember something in recent history, politically, and then a followup answer(such as this) that kinda settled the issue in a gay freindly manner.
clearly, my memory was way off.

so, all responsibilities, except the marriage penalty in the tax code. not too bad.

Jade said...

I don't fully understand the semantics of the big "M" word either - but legal jargon is all a game of semantics anyway. It comes to the same thing - legally recognized unions - which is good.

There are larger companies in the Beaverton area (Tek, Nike, etc...) who only hire through staffing agencies... generally they run through temps until they find one that fits the job, keep them on under the staffing agency for 90 days, then go through a direct hire process... so those places are good if you want to get a foot in the door to a company like that.

And about dating Quinn - thank you for reminding me! It's no wonder I was so surprised to find out you were gay.

Jeff said...

Wow - and here's where the confusion sets in. I hadn't realized that the Oregon domestic partnerships would be identical to New Jersey civil unions in all but name. There seems to be this informal hierarchy that marriage is better than a civil union which is better than a domestic partnership. In fact, I noticed that the Oregon bill originally called the relationship "civil union" but was changed to "domestic partnership." And yet they grant the same rights.

And yet... there will still inevitably be news reports that confuse the issue by not including Oregon (or California - or Hawaii?) on lists of states that provide the legal equivalent of marriage.

There really should be one nationwide term for "the equivalent of marriage." Granted, "marriage" would be the best term of all, but surely two terms ("marriage" and "civil union") are enough.

Of course, Andy, you realize the only reason this passed was because you moved there, right? They knew that with such a fabulous homosexual living in their state they would have to celebrate your presence in some way!

Quinn said...

I will always be the "woman behind the man," eh?

Jade said...

Quinn - perhaps not the woman behind the man, but you'll always be the only woman for Andy. :)