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Oregon Supreme Court settles ballot title dispute in ‘religious freedom’ measure

Thursday, May 8, 2014
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SALEM, Ore. — Backers of a proposed “religious freedom” ballot initiative in Oregon that would allow businesses to refuse services to same-sex weddings based on religious beliefs lost a ballot title challenge with the Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday.

Oregon Supreme Court in Salem.

Oregon Supreme Court in Salem.

Without comment, the court upheld a ballot title drafted by the Attorney General’s office that sponsors of the initiative had complained used “politically charged” wording that would bias voters against the measure, reports The Oregonian.

Ballot titles are regarded as one of the most important parts of an initiative campaign because they appear on the ballot right above where voters mark either their “yes” or “no” vote.

The certified ballot title contains the language: “Religious belief” exceptions to anti-discrimination laws for refusing services, other, for same-sex ceremonies, “arrangements.”

“It’s a pretty big victory,” said Peter Zuckerman, spokesman for Oregon United Against Discrimination, who said it’s important the ballot title indicates the measure would provide an exception to anti-discrimination laws.

Opponents argue that the measure allows individuals and businesses to discriminate against gay people and has no place in Oregon.

Zuckerman said he hopes the approved language would discourage proponents from proceeding with the measure.

This year, religious freedom bills were introduced in more than a dozen state legislatures, and failed in all states except Mississippi. Religious freedom backers hope to take Oregon’s measure directly to voters.

Backers of the measure must still obtain 87,213 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

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