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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ballot Measure 9

Ballot Measure 9. Distributed by Sovereign Distribution.
Reviewed by Duane Simolke for ThisWeekInTexas.Com.

On Friday, February 1, 2008, a state law took effect in Oregon that allows gay couples to register as domestic partners. Though voted into law in 2007, it met delays from an Arizona-based group that wanted to block it. The group failed. Oregon previously banned gay marriage, after the state’s largest county briefly granted gay marriage licenses.

Setbacks and advances for equality are nothing new for Oregon LGBTs; the DVD release of the documentary Ballot Measure 9 shows the dangers and the progress in disturbing yet inspiring detail. The timely return of this acclaimed film shows the true nature of hatred but also shows that love and equality can win out over fear and bigotry.

Directed by Heather Lyn MacDonald and named for the bill it explored, Ballot Measure 9 received the Grand Jury Prizes at the Chicago GBLT Film Festival and the Los Angeles Outfest, the Audience Award for Best Documentary (Sundance Film Festival), and several other awards. Sadly, it remains as relevant today, since anti-gay groups still use the same lies and tactics shown in the film. Fortunately, we can learn their methods from the film, and the methods of those who defeated them.

Though supporters of Ballot Measure 9 lied against and railed against gays, opposition slowly grew from within groups that weren’t limited to gay people or their parents—groups such as the elderly, African Americans, and people of faith. Many people saw the clear connections between hatred and discrimination, hatred and violence, hatred and past hatred. They simply said “enough” and helped defeat the measure.

The law would not only have blocked any attempts at stopping anti-gay discrimination but also would have required schools to teach that homosexuality is “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.” Its language set aside gays for special discrimination.

Sadly, 9 wasn’t simply a bill that met political defeat. The hatred stirred up by its supporters led to an enormous increase in anti-gay violence, an increase that some of 9’s supporters actually blamed on gays. Still, like the group that recently tried to stop Oregon’s domestic partnership law, the anti-gay activists in 1992 failed.

The documentary Ballot Measure 9 captures the fight and the hatred, but also captures hope and inspiration. MacDonald used hundreds of hours of footage to make a 72-minute film that carries emotional strength by exploring the words, feelings, and lives of Oregonians during the nine months leading up to the election.

The long-awaited DVD version of Ballot Measure 9 (released January 29, 2008) includes several bonus features, such as a new 40-minute bonus documentary that updates viewers and reexamines the battle against 9. In that documentary, some of the opponents of the measure regroup to discuss how their experiences changed their lives forever, and to discuss how to defeat similar measures.

Read more about this DVD at