Ballot Measure 9 (1995)

“An attempt by a group of people to run this country under fascist standards.”

Ballot Measure 9 is a documentary about the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s (OCA) attempts to place Measure 9 on the Oregon ballot in 1992. Measure 9 stated that all government agencies and schools would recognise that homosexuality was “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.” The proponents of the measure touted the fact that Measure 9 would stop “special rights” to gays, but in reality, Measure 9 ensured that civil rights of gays would be stripped away by prohibiting and revoking laws that protected gays from discrimination.

The documentary is an excellent example of “politics of confusion” in action. The so-called facts flung out by the OCA regarding the typical gay lifestyle are so shocking, it’s almost laughable. But there’s not much humour to be found in the wave of anti-gay violence that swept through Oregon as Measure 9 came closer to a vote. Vandalism, hate mail, threatening behaviour, vicious attacks, and even murder reigned as a result. The Portland police chief had to set up a special task force to deal with the growing wave of hate crimes directed towards the gay community (and their supporters).

The Christian leadership of the OCA argues that “legitimate moral criteria” establishes that homosexuality is wrong, and that being gay is a choice (“being gay is a valid choice of evil doing”). Some Measure 9 supporters express fears that since gays can’t “breed” they find it necessary to recruit children to their beliefs, and one young man interviewed for the film even suggested the unique plan that all gays should be kept off the streets and shipped off to Illinois.

The film shows the grassroots organisations of both sides in action–the protests, the marches, the rallies, and the headquarters. Also included in the film are clips from activists, lawyers, high school students, and religious leaders. Community activist Kathleen Saadat is a particularly potent speaker throughout the film. Those interested in gay rights will find Ballot Measure 9 an incredibly powerful film. “In an atmosphere of bigotry that facilitates violence” this is human nature at its worst and at its best. From director Heather MacDonald.

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