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Oregon Democrats propose constitutional amendment on abortion, same-sex marriage, gender-affirming care

the top of the Oregon capitol building is visible through cherry blossoms on a tree in the foreground
Chris Lehman
The Oregon Capitol on April 6, 2023.

Democrats in the Legislature want to ask Oregon voters to write the right to abortion, same-sex marriage and gender-affirming care into the state’s Constitution.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton, introduced a joint resolution in the state Senate Wednesday to refer to voters a proposed constitutional amendment. The legislative referral would appear on ballots in November 2024.

The amendment would also repeal language that’s been inOregon’s Constitution since 2004 defining marriage as being between one man and one woman (Article XV, Section 5a).

That policy hasn’t been in effect since a federal judge in 2014 ruled it unconstitutional — a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, which required states to recognize same-sex marriages.

Planned Parenthood, ACLU Oregon and Basic Rights Oregon are campaigning for the proposed amendment, which has broad support from Democrats who control both chambers of the Oregon Legislature. Republicans in the minority just learned of the legislation.

Oregon already has among the strongest protections for abortion and civil rights for LGBTQ people in the nation. State laws bar housing and employment discrimination against gay and transgender people, allow for abortions with no specific gestational limit, and require state Medicaid and most private medical insurers to cover abortions and gender-affirming care.

The civil rights advocates say a constitutional amendment creates a more lasting guarantee of those rights, following a decision by a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Conservative and Christian activists have also pressed lawmakers topass a slate of bills in other states under the umbrella of parents’ rights, which have taken aim at gender-affirming care, drag performers and transgender athletes.

“We don’t want Oregon to ever pass any kind of legislation like we’re seeing in other parts of the country that could strip away our right to exist,” said Todd Addams, interim executive director at Basic Rights Oregon. “We don’t want that to be a possibility without a huge, huge fight.”

Addams says members of the LGBTQ community in Oregon have wanted to remove the gay marriage ban from Oregon’s Constitution since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015.

Now, the national retrenchment on gay and transgender rights has created a new sense of urgency, with people questioning whether their marriages could be dissolved or they could lose access to medical care.

“This idea that their futures are completely up in the air, and could be stripped away at any moment, is this huge level of anxiety and fear in the community,” Addams said.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton
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