Oregon signs gay couple partnership law

Oregon has joined a growing list of US states prepared to offer gay couples at least some of the benefits of marriage. Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Wednesday signed legislation creating "domestic partnerships" for gays and lesbians in the western state starting Jan. 1. He also signed a bill that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, effective the same date. Kulongoski, a strong backer of both measures, said they would "transform our state from one of exclusion to one of complete inclusion." The measures had been attempted before but were always blocked by the Legislature until this year. Opponents of the two bills said they planned to launch a signature-gathering campaign next week to try to refer both measures to the November 2008 ballot. The domestic partnership law will enable same-sex couples to enter into contractual relationships that carry many of the benefits offered to married couples. The other law will ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in employment, housing and access to public accommodations. So far, only Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry. Vermont, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, Maine and Washington have laws allowing either civil unions or domestic partnerships, and Hawaii extends certain spousal rights to same-sex couples and cohabiting heterosexual pairs. The New Hampshire Legislature also recently approved a civil unions measure that Gov. John Lynch has said he will sign.