Oregon Family Council and its allies announced late Friday afternoon that they will suspend signature-gathering on their Protect Religious Freedom Initiative, in light of a court-ordered ballot title the group found would hurt the measure's chances among voters.
The group and its allies on the Christian right wanted to create an exception in Oregon's civil rights law that protects sexual minorities, so people of faith could decline to provide services in same-sex weddings or other commitment ceremonies. Under current interpretations of Oregon law, a baker, florist or other service provider can be found guilty of discrimination if they refuse to provide services for a same-sex couple's marriage or commitment ceremony.
A statement released by the group Friends of Religious Freedom said supporters would focus on legal challenges rather than going to the Oregon ballot. The group lamented that the court-ordered measure summary that would go before voters describes the requested exemption from the law as "intolerant instead of protecting equal rights of conscience."
The decision to halt the initiative campaign came the same day much of Oregons business establishment lined up to oppose the initiative. Nike, Columbia Sportswear, the Oregon Business Association and the Portland Business Association are among some 160 business affiliates signing a print ad in opposition to the measure. That ad reads: We want Oregon to be a great place to start and grow a business, and a place where employees can thrive in an inclusive work environment and welcoming community.
Quashing the Religious Freedom Initiative heads off a potential dramatic battle over gay rights in the fall election. Oregons November ballot might feature an initiative measure to overturn the 2004 Oregon Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Many Oregon business groups also are supporting that ballot measure, which would pave the way for same-sex couples to legally marry in Oregon.
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