Slant 4-17-2014

• Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage passed in 2004 and since then we’ve seen a steady shift in public attitudes on gay rights. On April 23, a federal judge will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Oregon and Basic Rights Oregon. If the plaintiffs prevail, Oregon’s obsolete ban will be struck down. The legal arguments for upholding the ban have withered under scrutiny in other states and we hope the Oregon court will agree. If not, Oregon United for Marriage and other equal rights groups will pursue a ballot initiative in November. Conservatives, of course, are fighting back and have launched an Arizona-style initiative that will allow anti-gay marriage discrimination by businesses under the cloak of religious freedom. A “Vigils for Marriage” gathering is being planned statewide next week and the Eugene event will be at 5:30 pm Tuesday, April 22, in front of the U.S. Courthouse on 8th Avenue.

• This town saw some world-class ballet over the weekend: the Eugene Ballet Company’s double bill of Silk & Steel and Zoot Suit Riot at the Hult. The talented dancers, the modern choreography of Toni Pimble and Sarah Ebert, the production quality, the invigorating music and the overall freshness of the programming blew us away. Silk & Steel could have been stale employing music from the Middle Ages; however, it left many in the audience squealing with glee. The ballet looked like a watercolor painting in motion, with the dancers’ colorful silk banners trailing behind them like brushstrokes. After intermission, an entirely different “swing” ballet began with the ever-fantastic Cherry Poppin’ Daddies boldly displayed on a two-tiered stage. Lead singer Steve Perry still has that winking, star-quality charisma and the singing chops to solicit hoots from the crowd, and the costuming of both the band and the dancers was spot on, retro but with a modern edge. Zoot Suit Riot was both sexy and funny — no easy feat for a ballet. But the real genius in this entire production was putting these two very different ballets on the same bill, bringing in people from dissimilar backgrounds and exposing them to art forms they may not seek out on their own. Bravo and encore! 

The Shy Person’s Talent Show at Sam Bond’s Garage was revived last Saturday and drew a flock of Oregon Country Fair folks, among many others, and most were not so shy about taking the stage with music, poetry and skits. Among the amateur performers were a few local music celebrities, such as Peter Wilde and David Rogers. This show and fundraiser has been going on and off for 25 years and it’s one of those quirky Eugene traditions that help define us. This year donations at the door went to support mental health and environmental activist David Oaks, who has been in a wheelchair since his accident 16 months ago. “There’s been such incredible help,” Oaks wrote in a letter that was handed out at the event. “One of the most subversive replies to disaster is to find the joy and love!”

• You have to look in the very fine print, but there in the Pulitzers is The Stranger, Seattle’s scrappy alternative newsweekly. Jen Graves, The Stranger’s arts writer, was a finalist in the criticism category. Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer was the winner and it’s worth checking her columns to see her impact on her city. Best of all, journalism’s highest prize, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, went to The Guardian U.S. and The Washington Post for telling Edward Snowden’s story.

• The U.N. Human Rights Committee condemned the U.S. for criminalizing homelessness on March 31, but the news hardly made a blip in mainstream media. The committee labeled American attitudes and actions “cruel, inhumane and degrading” and called on the U.S. government to take action nationwide. What about Eugene? Do we criminalize homelessness with our ordinances and prosecutions for trespassing and loitering? Ask any homeless person on the street who has been harassed, fined, forced to move in the middle of the night or even beaten, pepper sprayed and jailed. Their offenses are not technically called “being homeless,” but they might as well be. The Western Regional Advocacy Project ( is seeking a bill of rights for homeless people but it’s hard to imagine Congress or the Oregon Legislature passing such protections. It’s up to cities and counties to take the lead.