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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) and domestic partnerships in Oregon.

Part 4: 2013-NOV:
Oregon Family Council forms two groups: one to
prevent marriage equality; the other to allow
the freedom of companies to discriminate.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2013-NOV-21: Conservative Christian group creates two new groups opposing same-sex marriage:

In what we believe is a unique development in the U.S., the Oregon Family Council (OFC) announced that they are forming two separate groups to oppose same-sex marriages in the state:

  1. "Protect Marriage Oregon" is being set up to oppose the expected citizen initiative sponsored by Oregon United For Marriage. The initiative will attempt to repeal the 2004 amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage. That would legalize SSM in the state, attaining marriage equality in the four western U.S. states: Hawaii, Washington State, Oregon, and California. "Protect Marriage Oregon" has as its goal the failure of this repeal.

  2. "Protect Religious Freedom Initiative" ... whose goal they explain as safeguarding:

    "... religious freedom in Oregon and to allow conscientious objectors or persons with deeply held religious beliefs to decline to participate in same-sex ceremonies." 1

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On 2013-NOV-21, "Friends of Religious Freedom" filed the "Protect Religious Freedom Initiative." It would be the second SSM ballot initiative to be voted upon during election day in 2014-NOV, the first being the Oregon United's initiative to legalize SSM.

The Oregon Family Council explained in their blog:

"A growing trend of silencing can be seen where business owners of faith or with conscientious objections are being forced to compromise their individual conscience rights or face harassment, persecution, penalties levied upon them by the state, and the possibility of losing their business for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. Headlines have highlighted the personal conscience aspects of this silencing trend with penalties and lawsuits against florists (Washington), bakers (Colorado and Oregon), and photographers (New Mexico).

Teresa Harke, spokesperson for Friends of Religious Freedom said:

"We are deeply concerned that even Oregon elected officials are becoming hostile towards religious freedom. In comments related to a business owner that declined to participate in arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony because of conscientious objections, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said:

'The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.'

It is very troubling that Oregon elected officials believe people of faith or with conscientious objections need to be ‚€˜rehabilitated'." 2

Section 2 and 3 of the "Protect Religious Freedom Initiative" states:

"(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if doing so would violate a person‚€™s deeply held religious beliefs, a person acting in a nongovernmental capacity may not be:

(a) Penalized by the state or a political subdivision of this state for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements; or

(b) Subject to a civil action for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements.

(3) This section must be construed in favor of the broad protection of religious exercise to the maximum extent permitted by the Oregon Constitution and the United States Constitution."¬

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Oregon Family Council spokesperson Theresa Harke said that their group's main emphasis is going to be promotion of the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative. That is, they are going to concentrate mainly on changing laws to allow conservative Christians to discriminate against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community (LGBT), and less attention to trying to maintain the present ban on same-sex marriages (SSMs).

The Oregon United's initiative already would protect the right of clergy, congregations and denominations to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to solemnize their marriages. That right is also reinforced by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which established the separation of church and state in the U.S. It is really a non issue because clergy have been refusing to marry couples for centuries for many reasons while under the protection of the First Amendment. Clergy have refuse to marry couples because they are an interracial couple, an African American couple, an interfaith couple, of the wrong faith, considered to be not sufficiently mature, etc. The Roman Catholic Church has even refused to marry otherwise acceptable couples where one partner is physically disabled and thus would be unable to procreate. To our knowledge, no member of the clergy has ever been convicted or even charged because they refused to marry a couple. Still, a lot of religious conservatives consider an extra level of protection for their congregations and clergy to be comforting.

However, OFC's Protect Religious Freedom Initiative would go much further than give extra, redundant protection to clergy and congregations. To fully understand the scope of this initiative, it is important to understand a recent shift in the meanings of the terms "religious freedom" and its near-synonym: "religious liberty."

  • Until recently, religious freedom meant the freedom of individuals to believe as they wish, to express their religious beliefs publically in speeches and writing, to assemble with like-minded believers, to attend religious services, etc. Over the past 150 years, large religious groups and the government have oppressed religious believers including Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Native Americans, and more recently during the 1980's and 1990's because of the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax, Wiccans and other NeoPagans have been attacked.

  • Recently, the terms religious liberty & freedom seem to be taking on a new meaning: the freedom and liberty of a believer to hate, oppress, discriminate against, deny service to, denigrate, or reduce the human rights of other groups. The direction of the oppression has reversed. It is now the believer who is the oppressor and others -- typically women, sexual minorities, and other groups -- who are the targets of discrimination. This new meaning is in increasingly common usage. More details.

In short, the religious freedom of individuals' beliefs has become increasingly the freedom of individuals to discriminate against others.

The goal of OFC's Protect Religious Freedom Initiative is to implement this second meaning of religious freedom: to allow individuals and owners of "public accommodations" to discriminate against individuals and couples with impunity. "Public accommodations" are most often companies who serve the general public with the sale of goods and/or the provision of services. Examples are wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, companies renting facilities for marriage ceremonies and receptions, etc. They appear to mostly target the LGBT community at this time.

This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Matthew Brown, "Oregon religious freedom group counters gay marriage ballot proposal," Deseret News, 2013-NOV-27, at:
  2. "Admin," "Protect Religious Freedom Iniative," Oregon Family Council, 2013-NOV-21, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Oregon > here

Copyright © 2012 & 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-DEC-17
Latest update: 2017-MAR--02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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