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Ballot Measure 9 is the chronicle of what happened in Oregon during a particularly bitter battle over an anti-gay initiative promulgated by the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance (OCA) during the Clinton/Bush presidential race. With Colorado, Oregon was one of two test cases in 1992 for statewide referenda by conservative “family values” groups attempting to amend state constitutions to prevent and revoke laws which protect lesbians and gay men from discrimination. The Oregon Citizen Alliance’s Measure 9 went further, tying homosexuality to pedophilia  and sadomasochism, stating it was “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse,” and mandating that schools and government agencies teach it to be such.n

Lon Mabon, chair of the OCA, called it “a simple battle between good and evil.”  Inflamma5tory newspapers printed by the OCA and distributed door to door statewide claimed, among other things, that homosexuals regularly ingest and wallow in feces, recruit children to their addictive lifestyle, and are 90 times more likely to be pedophiles. According to the OCA rhetoric, homosexuals want “special rights for wrong behaviors,” not equal rights. Asserting that by seeking so-called civil rights, homosexuals were seeking affirmative action (as well as quotas in the workplace), the OCAexplained that homosexuals would deprive deserving minorities of their “special rights” and take jobs away from other citizens.

Statewide, the resulting virulent discourse on the dangersand morality of homosexuality thrived, andin this climate of fear came the inevitable rise of vandalism, harassment, physical attacks and murder,of lesbians, gay men and their supporters.

Text of Ballot Measure 9:

If approved by voters, Measure 9 would have added the following language to the Oregon Constitution:

(1) This state shall not recognize any categorical provision such as “sexual preference,” and similar phrases that include homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.  Quotas, minority status, affirmative action, or any similar concepts shall not apply to these forms of conduct, nor shall government promote these behaviors.

(2) State, regional and local governments and their properties and monies shall not be used to promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.

(3) State, regional and local governments and their departments, agencies and other entities, including specifically the state Department of Higher Education and the public schools, shall assist in setting a standard for Oregon’s youth that recognizes homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse and that these behaviors are to be discouraged and avoided.

Timeline since Measure 9:

While Ballot Measure 9 was defeated, a similar initiative was passed that day in Colorado. The legal challenge to Colorado's Amendment 2 went to the U.S. Supreme Court (Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996)), where it was found unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, "We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. . . . The amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects."

Meanwhile, back in Oregon:


The Oregon Citizen’s Alliance pass dozens of local anti-gay ballots, and the state steps in to prevent enforcement. The OCA attempts similar initiatives statewide in Idaho and Washington, and another ten states vote on anti-gay referenda.


Oregon voters narrowly defeat Measure 13, the OCA’s milder version of ‘92’s Measure 9.


A new Measure 9 is rejected by a slight margin. It would have prohibited public school instruction that encouraged or sanctioned homosexual behaviors, and punished noncompliance with loss of state funding. 

Oregon voters pass Measure 36, amending the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.

In May, the state legislature passes a domestic partnership bill, giving the same benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, and a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. 
The ACLU and Basic Rights Oregon are work in tandem to overturn the Oregon's 2007 ban on lesbian and gay marriage -- in the legislature, the courts and the public arena. A ballot initiative campaign is underway to ask Oregon voters to replace the state marriage ban with the freedom to marry in November 2014. There is also a federal court lawsuit, filed in 2013, that alleges that Oregon’s constitutional ban on marriage for lesbian and gay couples—Measure 36—violates the U.S. Constitution.