Religious Liberties

Full Report

Executive Summary
Press Release

 

Draft City Club Report Recommends Oregon Not Create
a Religious Belief Exception to Antidiscrimination Laws


Protection against discrimination for same-sex couples
does not constitute ‘reverse discrimination.’

(Portland, Ore.) The City Club of Portland today released a draft research report that recommends Oregon reject religious belief exceptions to the state’s antidiscrimination laws. Petition backers this year did not turn in signatures to place it on the ballot. Given national attention to this and similar laws, however, it could return to Oregon someday either on the ballot or in the Legislature. City Club therefore released this report to inform discussion about future efforts.

A committee of nine City Club member-volunteers spent four months studying the issue. Had the proposed petition appeared on the ballot, the member-volunteer committee that studied it would have recommended a “No” vote.

The committee interviewed witnesses and reviewed relevant documents. Proponents of the initiative declined to testify despite repeated and rigorous efforts to secure interviews. The full draft report, which includes a witness list and citations, is available online at www.pdxcityclub.org/ballotmeasures-religious.

As proposed, the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative would exempt opposition to same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships based on deeply held religious belief from state antidiscrimination laws. The committee unanimously found that it would have profound impacts on same-sex couples.

“It may truly offend the conscience and beliefs of deeply religious people to have to serve same-sex couples,” the report states. “On balance, however, the harm to same-sex couples caused by the Initiative would likely be greater and more widespread. It would say to such couples that they were somehow less deserving of anti-discrimination protections than every other heterosexual couple.”

The committee noted that the proposed law singled out the LGBT community as eligible for discrimination despite the fact that religious objections might be raised about other marriages, such as among divorcees, interracial couples and interfaith couples.

“These sorts of ‘religious freedom’ laws are part of a national reaction by opponents of same-sex marriage,” Committee Chair Roberto Jimenez said. “Such targeted discrimination would create a barrier to LGBT Oregonians’ full participation in society.”

Member-volunteers who served on the committee were Roberto Jimenez (chair), Brian Landoe (vice chair), Garrett Stephenson (lead writer), Paula Amato, Jodi Ballard-Beach, John Brennan, John Engle, Peter Fry and Jerry Hilts. Angela Wykoff served as the committee’s research adviser.

City Club members will debate and vote on this and nine other election-related recommendations at a “Ballot-Palooza” from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on Wednesday, August 20 at Oregon Public House (700 NE Dekum St.). The event will be open to the public, but only City Club members may vote on the recommendations. For more information on the event visit: http://bit.ly/BallotPalooza2014. Outcomes of the votes will be published on the City Club of Portland's website and reported in the City Club Bulletin, released August 26.

City Club member-volunteers have researched more than 400 state and local ballot measures since 1916. City Club’s Research Board screened all researcher applicants for conflicts of interest, and participants affirmed that they are unbiased on the ballot measure they sought to study.

City Club of Portland brings together civic-minded people to make Portland and Oregon better places to live, work and play for everyone. For more information about City Club of Portland, visit www.pdxcityclub.org or call 503-228-7231. Follow us on twitter @pdxcityclub and on facebook.

Committee Members

Member-volunteers who served on the committee were Roberto Jimenez (chair), Brian Landoe (vice chair), Garrett Stephenson (lead writer), Paula Amato, Jodi Ballard-Beach, John Brennan, John Engle, Peter Fry and Jerry Hilts. Angela Wykoff served as the committee’s research adviser.