BEAVERTON, Ore. – Oregonians across the state got their first chance Thursday to sign a petition to put a gay marriage initiative on the 2014 ballot.
Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Gov. Barbara Roberts both signed the petition at an event at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Portland.
Kitzhaber said amending Oregon's Constitution isn't something that should be done lightly, but he said that the laws need to evolve to reflect the changing nature of the state.
"When we talk about marriage equity, to me, we are talking about that basic equality that we should demand for every single person in the state," he said.
"On this day we begin another historic step toward making Oregon more welcoming to loving couples and families," Roberts said.
Oregon United for Marriage, which established a committee with the secretary of state's office, set up events on Valentine's Day surrounding the petition drive and various religious leaders said they want people to know many faith communities support same-sex marriage.
"This issue is personal for me, because I've been out as bisexual for over 30 years," said Rabbi Debra Kolodny at an event in Beaverton.
Rabbis and reverends spoke about the years of marrying others and now what they're hoping for themselves in Oregon.
"When about 15 years ago, we went to see the Victorian lights before Christmas in North Portland – I took her hand, and I said, 'I want to marry you,'" said the Rev. Jeanne Knepper about her partner the Rev. Marcia Hauer.
Hauer and Knepper are both retired pastors and had a covenant service years ago and made a promise to each other: "Partners, companions, giggle mates, playmates and friends for life," they said in unison.
Since then, they've taken every opportunity available.
"As soon as Multnomah County did domestic partnerships, we signed up," said Knepper. "When Multnomah County did weddings, we got married. And then the state told us it was invalid. Then when the state said we could sign up for a domestic partnership, we did that, too."
Now one more step as they were among the first to sign the petition to put gay marriage on the 2014 Oregon ballot.
"I can't tell you the joy, the deep joy it would be to finally have who we are before the law and who we are in our faith and who we are in our commitment to each other be consistent," said Knepper.
"And not to be second class citizens," added Hauer.
Supporters need to turn in about 1,000 signatures initially and plan to do that early next week. Then they'll need to collect more than 116,000 signatures by next summer to qualify for the ballot.
The group, Protect Marriage Oregon, which opposes the Basic Rights Oregon campaign, released a statement Thursday afternoon.
It says, in part, "We have been anticipating this move for over a year. Much is still unknown about the ballot measures they are introducing, which have a long process ahead of them. Protect Marriage Oregon is committed to making sure Oregonians understand the unique distinctions of marriage between one man and one woman and the importance of protecting that definition."
Basic Rights Oregon said the timing wasn't quite right to push for same-sex marriage in 2011-2012, but it is now.