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Vigil mourns law that would have been

Beaverton residents say they are hurt by a delay in Oregon's domestic partnership law
by: Jonathan House, Kate Dilworth and Maria Webster of Beaverton attended last Wednesday’s candlelight vigil in Portland in support of civil unions.

Several Beaverton gay couples and their supporters were among those who packed The Q Center in downtown Portland during a candlelight vigil the evening of Jan. 2 to lament the delayed domestic partnership law that would have gone into effect that day.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman reasoned in his court decision Dec. 28 that the risk to the constitutional rights of signers of a petition to refer the law to voters outweighed the possible harm to gay couples by delaying the law until Feb. 1, when another hearing is scheduled.

The Q Center and gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon organized the vigil, which joined several others across the state, to raise awareness about those they say would be harmed during the delay and any further delays.

'The court got it completely wrong to say that this delay doesn't hurt real people,' said BRO Executive Director Jeana Frazzini.

Kate Dilworth, a special education teacher in Beaverton and Hillsboro, was one of those who stood to speak in front of the approximately 350 supporters, politicians and journalists gathered at the event.

Dilworth is 8-months pregnant and due Jan. 23. Her partner of five years, Maria Webster, said that instead of being able to sign up for a legally-recognized union, she will now have to undergo an expensive adoption process in order to be named a parent to the unborn child.

'Domestic partnerships would have given both of us legal parenthood,' Dilworth said. 'This delay in domestic partnerships deprives our family of this security.'

Webster said the couple planned to have a baby and thought they were lucky that it was going to be due right after the new law was supposed to have taken effect.

'It's a let-down,' Webster said. 'It's very frustrating.'

Real estate broker Randall Smith, also from Beaverton, said he and his partner were also planning on getting a civil union when they became available.

'I think it's only fair that we share that same status as other couples who are life-long committed,' Smith said.

Smith added that he disagrees with opponents of the new law who contend that domestic partnerships - which are only for same-sex couples - are a discriminatory way to give special rights to a small minority.

'I don't look at the basic foundation of having two people wanting to share a life together as a special interest group,' he said.

The event included opportunities for people to share how they were affected by the delay at a table urging attendees to tell their stories.

At the table was Beaverton resident Dawn Holt, who is president of PFLAG Portland (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays).

'I think it's important to put a face on what this law means (by) not going into effect, and how this is going to affect children and families,' Holt said.

She added that her efforts are partly motivated by her 20-year-old son, who is gay.

'When he's at a point that he's in a loving, committed relationship, I want him to have all the rights that my husband and I have,' she said. 'It doesn't make sense to me that he wouldn't.'