Gay Marriage Issue, 1976
A 1976 Corvallis, Oregon newspaper story "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,'" sparked numerous angry letters to the editor about such a thing being printed in a "family newspaper." Several letters threatened to cancel the writer's newspaper subscription. (In the 1970s, both gay men and lesbians identified as being gay until many women adopted a lesbian identity after objecting to rampant misogyny and sexism by gay male activists.) One of the women profiled in the newspaper story also came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper. She was active in forming gay women's groups at Oregon State University.
Although the woman profiled in the 1976 newspaper story considered gay marriage to be only an emotional feeling that was an impossible dream, others believed it was important to establish the actual equal right to marriage. For example, when her feelings about gay marriage were being quoted in 1976, another OSU graduate student Thomas Kraemer had for years been actively supporting the gay marriage activism of the University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker and Rev. Troy Perry. Jack Baker famously took his marriage case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost in 1972. Kraemer, when he was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota between 1969 and 1974, had been a member of Jack Baker's F.R.E.E. (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) gay liberation group.
In the 1970s, most gay activists dismissed the idea of gay marriage as being contrary to the goals of both sexual and gay liberation. Baker and Rev. Perry were angrily denounced as being lunatics, even by other gay people.
The woman profiled in the 1976 newspaper story, along with several other students including Thomas Kraemer, formed the first officially recognized student group at Oregon State University in 1976.
In Oregon, marriage licenses are issued by county officials. In 2004, the elected Benton County commissioners (where Corvallis is located) voted to issue gay marriage licenses. A few months later, a bare majority of Oregon voters banned same-sex marriages with a state constitutional amendment. The costly signature gathering process needed to get it on the ballot was sponsored by anti-gay Christian Republicans as part of President George W. Bush's national reelection strategy.