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ACLU Challenges Anti-Gay Initiative Adopted By Oregon Town;
Files Lawsuit in State Court Against Springfield Measure
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 1993
In a continuing drive to overturn anti-gay ballot initiatives, the
American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is challenging the
constitutionality of a municipal law that equates sexual orientation and
homosexuality with pedophilia, sadism and masochism.
In a lawsuit filed on January 19 in Lane County Circuit Court in
Oregon, the ACLU says that the amendment to the Springfield City Charter,
adopted last May, violates a number of federal and state constitutional
guarantees, including the rights to equal protection and freedom of
expression. The lawsuit also says that the anti-gay amendment amounts to
a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.
Filed only days after a Colorado judge prohibited that state from
enforcing its recently approved anti-gay initiative, the Oregon lawsuit
asks the Court to temporarily block enforcement of the law while it
considers its constitutionality.
"This ballot measure," said David Fidanque, Executive Director of the
ACLU of Oregon, "was an attempt to take away the rights of a minority of
"If the rights of one minority group can be denied -- whether that
minority is a racial minority, a political minority, a religious minority
or a sexual minority -- if the rights of that minority are taken away,
then the rights of all of us are in danger," Fidanque said.
The Springfield initiative would forbid the city council or any other
elected or appointed officers to adopt any "law, ordinance, rule or
resolution" that includes mention of "sexual orientation," "sexual
preference" and "similar phrases that include homosexuality, pedophilia,
sadism or masochism."
The Springfield amendment was similar to one considered and defeated
statewide in Oregon in November. It is more virulent, but equally
damaging, than the initiative adopted in Colorado.
Ruth E. Harlow, Staff Attorney with the ACLU's national Lesbian and
Gay Rights Project, called the Springfield amendment "an embarassment for
"It is sad that the voters of Springfield paid more attention to the
irrational fear and hatred of right-wing zealots than to our Constitution
and what it stands for," Harlow said. "We hope our lawsuit will call
attention to the basic American value, embodied in the Constitution, of
respecting our differences."
Seven states and more than 100 municipalities currently have laws
that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. "Ever
since the first laws protecting gay people from discrimination were
enacted in the 1970s, we have been fighting this type of backlash and
hatred," said William B. Rubenstein, the Director of the ACLU's national
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "The Springfield amendment is among the
most recent examples of a sad history of bigotry against lesbians and gay
men that continues into the 1990s."
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