SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Despite recent victories on same-sex marriage in Vermont and Iowa, gay rights backers are taking a go-slow approach in trying to overturn Oregon's 2004 constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Basic Rights Oregon said Thursday it will wait until 2012 or later to try to take the issue back to Oregon voters.
The group's executive director, Jeana Frazzini, said she thinks next year would be too soon to ask Oregonians to reconsider their 2004 vote banning gay marriage and that such an effort could fail.
"Frankly, putting the rights of our community up for a public vote causes us concern," Frazzini said. "So we're not going to rush into this thing like it's some kind of game."
Recent victories in favor of same-sex marriage around the country signal shifting public attitudes on the issue, Frazzini said. She said she believes Oregonians eventually will vote to give full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.
On Tuesday, Vermont became the fourth state to recognize same-sex marriages when its Legislature voted to override the governor's veto of a gay marriage bill. That came four days after Iowa's Supreme Court struck down that state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Legislatures in at least nine other states are considering measures to allow marriages between gay couples.
The only way for that to happen in Oregon, though, would be to persuade voters to reverse themselves by repealing the state's existing constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Some gay rights advocates say that with political momentum building, now's the time to ask Oregon voters to revisit the issue.
Political activist Sal Peralto said gay rights supporters should put a gay marriage amendment on the ballot every two years until one finally passes.
"When women suffragists were trying to gain voting rights, they didn't look at polling. They knew their issue was right, and they kept pushing it for five elections until they won it," Peralto said.
But Tim Nashif, a conservative political consultant who led the 2004 campaign to pass Measure 36, Oregon's gay marriage ban, said he thinks Basic Rights Oregon is pursuing a wise course in holding off on another ballot measure for now.
"If I were in their shoes, I would bide my time and hope for a change in public opinion to give them a chance to repeal Measure 36," he said.
Nashif also said, though, that he believes Oregon voters would again back a ban on same-sex marriage in 2012.
Oregon became one of the first places to allow gay marriage in 2004 when Multnomah County moved to legalize it. That lasted about six weeks until a judge ruled that there was no right to gay marriage under state law, thus invalidating 3,000 marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples. Then the state's voters approved Nashif's initiative measure.
Since then, the 2007 Legislature approved a domestic partners law giving same-sex couples some, but not all, of the rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples.
Frazzini, the Basic Rights Oregon chief, said she sees the domestic partners law as a "bridge"' to eventually allowing full marriage status to same-sex couples.
"We think things are headed in the right direction. It's only a matter of time," she said.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)