The Special Righteousness Committee

Dead-Serious Satire targeting the Oregon Citizens Alliance

By Robin Will

Oregon’s LGBTQ community didn’t have much to laugh about in the early 1990s.

The anti-gay Oregon Citizens Alliance was gearing up to write disapproval and discrimination against gays into the state’s constitution.

From the day signature-gathering started, the OCA’s Measure 9 campaign was ugly. LGBT people heard themselves demeaned on the air, slandered in the press, and verbally attacked in public rallies. There were reports of physical attacks, as well: stalking, bashings, assaults and vandalism against perceived gay people, their supporters, and their property. In some rural areas, as well as in Portland, gay people literally lived in fear.

Lon Mabon Paper DollsLGBTQ people and allies rallied to defeat Measure 9.

In 1988, Governor Neil Goldschmidt had issued an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in the executive department of state government. The Oregon Citizens Alliance successfully referred the order to a statewide vote (Ballot Measure 8, 1988), and defeated it, replacing it with a statute that prohibited . job protection for gay employees of state government. (Measure 8 was declared unconstitutional on November 12, 1992, in Merrick v. Oregon, but that was still in the future at the time I’m writing about.)

GLAPN was delighted when one of the original Lon Mabon paper doll sheets, drawn by Vaughn Frick, a prominent Portland artist/activist, turned up at a yard sale. We were afraid they were lost! Click on the image at right to see a readable version of the paper doll sheet.

Encouraged by this success, the OCA brought their infamous Measure 9 to the ballot by initiative in 1992. Under the slogan “No Special Rights for Homosexuals,” Measure 9 would amend Oregon’s Constitution to prohibit gays from being accorded status of a protected minority, to declare homosexuality (and pedophilia, sadism and masochism) as “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse,” and to prohibit public schools, colleges and libraries from “promoting” any of the above. (Read the entire text of Measure 9 at this link.)

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were huge differences of opinion within in the LGBTQ community about how to address the OCA threat. Pressure from outside did not force consensus within, and minorities within minorities created infighting where mutual support would have served us better.

LGBT people weren’t going to win the election on their own in any case, and many community groups entered the fray on one side or the other. The Voter’s Pamphlet for 1992 was fat with arguments pro and con. Download the 1992 Voters Pamphlet here. 

Among the groups to express an opinion was The Special Righteousness Committee. Their position was simple: if we were going to adopt parts of the Book of Leviticus into the state constitution, we should adopt all of it. Their comments read, in part:

 “The state condones adultery by not punishing it with death as required by Leviticus. It promotes oyster-eating by licensing seafood restaurants, and it allows people to take mixed fibers out of the closet and to flaunt them right out in public without being fired or evicted! The state is encouraging sin!

If the OCA can have the special right to make their personal moral agenda into public policy, then anyone else also should be able to amend the state Bill of Rights to eliminate basic human rights for people who they don’t like.

Let’s put ALL of Leviticus into the constitution!”

(Click here to view a larger version of the Special Righteous Committee’s statement.)

If this was a joke, it wasn’t a cheap one. Groups paid $300 each for one-column spots – half a page of text – in the Voter’s Pamphlet. In 1992, that was approximately what families were spending for a month’s groceries.

A quote from the group’s wiki reveals how they got the money:
For fund-raising, we sold indulgences to our supporters who were worried about their sins of oyster-eating, wearing mixed fibers, shaving a beard, and so on. $50 bought total absolution, but if you had only $35, you got just "a stench and singe of eternal hellfire." $25 limited you to one year in the lake of fire, and $10 got you "four more years."

While we know the cost of the Special Righteousness Committee’s Voter’s Pamphlet page, we have no way to guess the cost of the paper dolls.

Oregonians defeated Measure 9, 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent at the polls. The struggle was enormously costly to the morale of the LGBT community, where there was never full agreement on how to address the OCA's challenge. Our community and its allies outspent the OCA six to one, and although the election was “won,” we had gained neither rights nor safety from further OCA initiatives.

Although our community was damaged by the struggle to defeat the OCA, the ground-breaking organizing efforts in 1992 provided the foundation on which Basic Rights Oregon, the Human Rights Campaign, the Rural Organizing Project and Love Makes a Family could carry forward the idea that all people deserve the same equal rights under the law.



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