Last week, in the oddly named Grapevine, Texas, the Boy Scouts of America announced an about-face: After a decades-long ban on gay children taking part in their activities, a position that was especially vociferous over the past year, the Scouts voted to allow any boys, regardless of sexual orientation, to join the club. More than 60 percent of the delegates from across the country voted in favor of opening up the organization, although the ban on gay Scout leaders remains.
While not a wholesale acceptance, that decision was a remarkable indication of just how far attitudes toward LGBTQ in America have softened. Just over a year ago, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to publicly support same-sex marriage and, just a month ago, Jason Collins became the first active athlete in a major sport to announce that he is gay. And during May, three states—Minnesota, Delaware and Rhode Island—all voted to legalize same-sex marriage.
Yet, in spite of momentum toward such fairness and equality, and in spite of growing public support for same-sex marriage (from 25 percent 10 years ago to a current 50 percent), the vast majority of states continue to ban same-sex marriage.
In 2003, the state of Massachusetts first extended marriage rights to same-sex couples and was quickly followed by allowances, in 2004, in San Francisco as well as Multnomah County. But those allowances created a massive public backlash, and in subsequent elections, 13 states banned same-sex marriages, including Measure 36 in Oregon, which passed overwhelmingly. Most of those laws remain in place.
But now, in the context of evolving public attitudes, activists hope to place a measure to allow same-sex marriage in Oregon on the ballot in November.
On Saturday, June 1, Oregon United for Marriage kicks off its signature gathering campaign. Bend City Councilor Jody Barram will speak at the event. Social Justice Center, 155 NW Irving Ave, 10 am–2 pm. SW