Justice delayed is justice denied, says the old maxim. But we believe hundreds of gay and lesbian couples in Oregon would disagree. For them justice was still something to celebrate, even though it had been delayed a little while.
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled the Oregon Secretary of State's office acted legally in refusing to qualify an initiative to repeal Oregon's civil union law for the ballot. In doing so he lifted a restraining order, issued three days after Christmas, that had kept the civil union measure from going into effect and prevented same-sex couples from exercising the same rights that opposite-sex couples have had for centuries.
Mosman is hardly a rabid gay-rights advocate. He was appointed to the federal bench by President George Bush with the support of Republican Sen. Gordon Smith. Ironically, one of the big obstacles to his confirmation was a memo he wrote back in 1986, as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, arguing against extending the constitutional right of privacy to cover homosexual activity.
In the current case, Mosman - correctly - didn't concern himself with the issue of regulating sexual behavior but strictly with whether the state had done the right thing in tossing out signatures on the petition to qualify the anti-civil union initiative for the ballot.
Because it's impractical to individually verify thousands of petition signatures, the state instead takes a sample of the signatures turned in, determines what percentage are invalid, and then extrapolates from that to decide how many total signatures are probably void. Supporters of the initiative argued that the state should be required to check every signature that it throws out.
Mosman said no. Unlike a general election, he ruled, the state has no obligation to guarantee that every single citizen who signs a petition has his or her signature counted.
In a further irony for conservatives, Mosman partially based his ruling on a principle laid down in the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore - that every county in a state must apply the same standards in counting votes.
Mosman's ruling was a victory for common sense, justice and human dignity. It also was a victory for Basic Rights Oregon and other groups and individuals who have fought long and bravely to get the civil union measure passed. In recognition of their labors and as a trophy of their victory, here's the GLASS SLIPPER.
And for their opponents, here are a few words:
You say homosexuality is a sin. Whether it is or isn't, it is not the job of the government to prevent sin or punish sinners.
You say homosexual unions are a threat to the institution of marriage. With half of heterosexual marriages ending in divorce, it looks to us like maybe heterosexuality is a bigger threat.
We hear you are thinking about appealing Judge Mosman's ruling. Don't do it. You took your shot and you lost. Now please go away. To help you along, here's THE BOOT.