Forest Grove congregants support ballot initiative for same-sex unions

Following in the footsteps of the Portland Trail Blazers, Portland Timbers and Nike Inc., members of the Forest Grove United Church of Christ have endorsed a campaign to overturn Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Thirty-nine church members voted in favor of supporting a “Freedom to Marry” initiative — part of a nationwide push to win marriage rights for same-sex couples — while three others abstained during the congregation’s annual meeting Jan. 26.

“We voted to be a ‘Freedom to Marry’ church,” said Tori Eaton of Forest Grove, a member of the church’s outreach committee. “That means we support the campaign for all couples to have the right to marry.

“This is about basic human rights … people deserve equality across the board.”

Two organizations, Basic Rights Oregon and Oregon United for Marriage, are working to gather 116,000 signatures by July in order to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot asking voters to legalize gay marriage in the state. The political action committee Protect Marriage Oregon is working to continue the ban on same-sex unions.

The UCC vote indicated “moral support” for Freedom to Marry but stopped short of a financial commitment, Eaton said. A few members were concerned about the level of political support the congregation was lending Freedom to Marry, she added, and asked questions of a Freedom to Marry "faith director" who came to town Jan. 12 for a presentation in front of the congregation.

“I see this as a justice issue,” said Eaton. “As an ‘open and affirming’ congregation we have to ask ourselves, ‘What about all these rights that are being denied?’ We have so many members in our church who don’t have this basic right as citizens in our state.”

Same-sex couples in legal domestic partnerships can file a joint federal tax return, but cannot file jointly in Oregon, Eaton pointed out.

Her church’s vote indicates a consensus that “same-sex couples should have all the same legal rights and privileges as heterosexual couples,” Eaton said. “As a faith community, we recognize that love between two individuals is sacred, whether it’s between a man and a woman or two people of the same gender.”

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