Oregon’s vote on marriage equality is approaching T-minus one year and counting, and Oregon United for Marriage (OUM) is thriving. Eugeneans will mark the countdown with several house parties in the area and 100 throughout the state. The statewide campaign has hired a new director, and a Students United for Marriage chapter has been active in Eugene since late September. Statewide, petitioners have gathered 104,908 of 116,284 signatures required to make the November 2014 ballot.
Kay Mellenthin and Clark Compton will host a Eugene house party because they see it as a good opportunity to talk with their friends, neighbors and members of their church about the freedom to marry. “Through those conversations, people understand why it’s important,” Mellenthin says.
After the house parties, OUM Eugene Field Organizer Kathy Formella says the Eugene chapter will focus on finishing signature collecting. “Once we’re done with that,” she says, “then we can really work on changing hearts and minds around marriage.”
Colin Crader, statewide and UO chair of Students United for Marriage, has been working with other students on the petition-gathering campaign. “For each signature that I’ve experienced with students, each student has their own story about why they support and why they get involved, and I think it’s important that we get to know each other and hear those stories as the campaign progresses,” he says.
Crader identifies as a queer person of color, and he says a big part of his story was the reaction that his advocacy drew from attendees of his sister’s wedding this summer. “They said they support me and the work that I do,” he recounts.
OUM’s new campaign manager, Mike Marshall, will begin Nov. 6. “He’s an experienced guy,” OUM Press Secretary Peter Zuckerman says. “We’re pretty lucky to have him.” Marshall ran two statewide campaigns in California, including the 2000 fight against the measure that later became Proposition 8.