Could Oregon Also Legalize Gay Marriage?

As Washington Inches Closer, Oregon Not There (Yet?)

POSTED: 4:30 AM PST January 24, 2012    UPDATED: 6:21 AM PST January 24, 2012 
BEND, Ore. -

Some encouraging news for gay marriage supporters in Washington state: the state legislature has secured enough votes to pass a bill to legalize gay marriage. Central Oregon gay rights advocates are applauding the move in Olympia, but could a bill like that pass in Salem?

If the bill is approved, Washington would be the seventh state in the nation to legalize gay marriage.

Oregon, it appears, isn't in any rush to be the eighth.

Gay marriage is an issue Bend resident Mike Lovely has advocated for all his life. He's even testified for it at the state Capitol.

"There's a lot of gay couples that have been together for a long time and have good, solid relationships," Lovely said.

In July 2005, Oregon state senators approved a bill to allow same-sex civil unions, but the House supporters couldn't get it passed, and the measure died in committee.

Two years later, Democrats brought up a similar bill in the House, changing "civil unions" to "domestic partnerships." The language change was enough to get the bill passed.

While domestic partnerships gives gay couples a few of the rights married couples enjoy, they say they still don't have full legal rights.

"I'm looking for my partner to get my annuity or my Social Security when I die, and right now, he can't," Lovely said.

But for gay couples in Washington, the future may be brighter, as it moves closer to becoming the seventh state to allow same-sex marriage.

"Each state that accomplishes this before we do, I think, bodes well for us, too," Lovely said.

So, is there a chance gay marriage could happen in Oregon?

"There just wasn't enough support for it this year, and this year is going to be a contentious election year any way -- this is not the time to do it," Lovely said.

And it's a sticky subject for Oregon lawmakers including state Sen. Chris Telfer, who says she didn't want to comment on the issue.

Lovely said, "I would like to see all 50 states do it, but it's going to be a long haul."

We tried contacting other members of the Central Oregon delegation, but did not hear back from them.

The 2012 Legislative Session is just 35 days long, and it's unlikely they'll be dealing with the issue this year. But Lovely hopes to see it get on the Oregon ballot some time soon.