Oregon group considers using ballot to legalize same-sex marriage

As more states consider amending their constitutions next year to prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying, one state, Oregon, is considering the opposite tactic -- overturning a constitutional gay-marriage ban.

During the 2004 general election, Oregon was among 11 states that passed ballot measures banning gay marriage -- 57 percent of Beaver State voters approved the ban. But in 2012, Oregonians might be given the opportunity to vote to lift the ban, if the state's largest LGBT-rights group, Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), decides to it has enough support to start a full-fledged ballot-initiative campaign.

As The Register-Guard reports, volunteers have recently been working the phone bank at the BRO's Eugene headquarters, trying to gauge support for marriage equality in the state.

Last month, Basic Rights Oregon announced it was exploring a Marriage 2012 campaign and, simultaneously, organized an advisory group made up of community leaders and campaign professionals to help finalize that decision in late October or early November.

“Deciding whether to go to the ballot is not something we take lightly nor a decision we will make alone,” said BRO Executive Director Jeana Frazzini in a statement on group's website. “We want to hear from the experts and leaders on the Advisory Group as well as from the larger LGBT and allied community, because we cannot move forward unless we have a viable ballot measure as well as a supportive and engaged base of support.”

According to the Register-Guard, in 2004, gay-marriage-ban campaigners spent $2.5 million to push the amendment, while marriage-equality supporters spent almost $3 million.

The state's leading marriage-equality foe, the Oregon Family Council, has promised to give BRO "the fight of their lives to protect marriage" if they start a ballot measure campaign.

If next year Oregon joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia in becoming the seventh state to offer marriage to both straight and gay couples, it will be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage via popular vote and the first to overturn a constitutional gay-marriage ban.

Meanwhile, campaigns to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage wage on in Minnesota and North Carolina, and GOP presidential candidates face pressure from social conservative groups to support a federal constitutional gay-marriage ban. However, contender Herman Cain made news on Sunday's "Meet the Press" by saying he thinks banning or legalizing gay marriage should be a state's decision.

"I wouldn’t seek a constitutional ban for same-sex marriage, but I am pro-traditional marriage," Cain told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory.

Cain, along with Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), are the only four GOP candidates in the leading pack of eight that did not sign the National Organization for Marriage’s controversial “Marriage Pledge,” which among other provisions binds the signer to supporting a federal constitutional amendment “defining marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.”

Watch Cain on "Meet the Press":