By JOHN FORTMEYER
The new year that began a month ago will move steadily into a busy and long political season in the Northwest. In addition to a plethora of local and state races, some initiative efforts in Oregon will likely be of particular concern to the evangelical Christian community.
Here is an overview:
•A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit state funding of abortion. To make the ballot, this initiative needs a minimum of 116,284 valid signatures by July 3 to qualify for the November ballot in Oregon, although the measure’s sponsors have set a self-imposed deadline of Mother’s Day, May 11, to make that goal.
“With just a few months to go, we’re relying on people of faith to gather signatures in their neighborhoods and at their churches,” said Jeff Jimerson, co-chief petitioner of the initiative. “Volunteers have turned in about 32,000 signatures so far. Individuals and churches can request petition sheets from our website at www.Oregon2014.org.”
This is the second time that Jimerson, an Albany resident, has headed efforts energized by Christians to place such a measure on the ballot. In 2012, about 70,000 signatures were collected by July; but efforts on the 2014 initiative were started far earlier than the last try.
Jimerson notes that the number of taxpayer-funded abortions has steadily grown over the past few years, to more than 4,000 per year that are paid under the Oregon Health Plan.
•A proposed constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage in Oregon. Thanks to a successful 2004 initiative spearheaded by the Oregon Family Council, Oregon’s constitution declares that marriage between one man and one woman is the only valid form of marriage. But as of Oct. 18, 2013, Oregon does recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or nations. This new initiative, backed by Basic Rights Oregon and opposed by the Oregon Family Council, seeks to overturn the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004. Oregon is the only West Coast state to still have a ban on same-sex marriage in effect.
Among the measure’s supporters are the Portland Timbers, Thorns and Trail Blazers — the first professional sports teams to back a same-sex marriage proposal — as well as the Portland Business Alliance and major employers including Adidas, Nike, and Intel.
Like the measure regarding abortion, this proposed constitutional amendment needs a minimum of 116,284 valid signatures by July 3 to qualify for the November ballot. As of early December, supporters say that number had already been secured, but petition gathering is continuing.
•A proposed state statute to protect the religious freedoms of people and businesses who do not believe in same-sex marriage from participating in such ceremonies. The Oregon Family Council has developed this measure which, should it qualify, could bring more socially conservative Christians out to the polls, perhaps generating more votes against same-sex marriage.
Unlike the two consititional amendments listed above, this proposal would only require 87, 213 valid signatures by July 3 to make the ballot.
The initiative sponsors note that religious freedom is the first freedom guarantee by the U.S. Constitution. But they point out recent incidents in four states where business owners have faced severe challenges and even the possibility of losing their business for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. These have included penalties and lawsuits against a florist in Richland, Wash.; bakers in Gresham and also Colorado, and photographers in New Mexico.
This year also could see renewed efforts in Oregon to see legalization of recreational marijuana for ages 21 and older, as was approved in 2012 by voters in Washington State and Colorado, but rejected then in Oregon.
Disclosure to readers: CNNW publisher John Fortmeyer is an unpaid advisor to the Oregon 2014 Petition Committee seeking a ban on state funding of abortions.