Up until now, the Oregon GOP's official platform included language that condemned gay marriage and civil unions and implied that gay couples were unfit to bring up children. But at its state convention in Bend last weekend, the party - prompted by a coalition of young Turks led by Xander Almeida, 26, of Portland - voted to ditch the worst gay-bashing language.
The revised platform is hardly a ringing endorsement of progressive ideas about gay rights, marriage or reproductive freedom. It proclaims that "the traditional family is ordained by God our Creator and is the foundation of our society. A traditional family is formed through the marriage of one man and one woman. This ... environment is the optimum for raising children into responsible, self-sufficient, productive citizens" - apparently implying that kids raised by same-sex couples are destined to become crack-addicted welfare bums.
The "Family" section also declares that "marriage is between one man and one woman" (as does the Oregon Constitution, thanks to the passage of Measure 36 in 2004) and reiterates the party's opposition to abortion and assisted suicide, as well as to giving children sex education without parental consent.
Still, it's a huge improvement over the previous version, which declared: "We do not consider 'same sex marriage' to be 'marriage' nor 'civil unions' to have any equivalency nor right to legal standing. Nor do we believe 'same sex marriage' or 'civil unions' worthy of legal standing for adoption or parenting purposes."
The Republicans' decision to back off from their anti-gay position represents not a change of heart so much as a recognition of political realities in Oregon. The GOP has no statewide office-holders and hasn't won a statewide race since Sen. Gordon Smith was re-elected in 2002. Gay-bashing might arouse the mouth-breathing troglodyte wing of the state GOP, but it alienates too many of the moderate Republicans and independents the party needs to break its losing streak.
Also, as Almeida said, there's an inherent hypocrisy in a party that claims to be for small government wanting to mess around with people's sex lives. "If we want to do small government, shouldn't we get government out of the bedroom as well?" Almeida told The Oregonian.
Almeida's campaign to moderate the anti-gay language almost didn't succeed. It was rejected in caucus, and rescued only because party chairman and former gubernatorial candidate Allen Alley told Almeida to bring it up for a floor vote. Even then, it carried by a bare majority among the 230 delegates attending. Given that, there's always a chance the party will return to its gay-bashing ways next year.
But for now, we'll chalk up a small victory for common sense and rationality on the part of the Oregon GOP - and pass it THE GLASS SLIPPER.