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Same-Sex Marriage Crusaders in Monica Wehby’s TV Ad Not Legally Wed

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

 

Rummell and West

Ben West, left, and Paul Rummell, right, celebrate their wedding in 2010 before same-sex marriage was legal in Oregon. Photo courtesy of Ben West

The same-sex marriage champions backing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Monica Wehby in a statewide TV ad are not married, despite implying so in the first line of the commercial.

And Wehby’s campaign knew it. 

Ben West, star of the TV ad, told GoLocalPDX he and his partner, Paul Rummell, plan to officially tie the knot in August. Though West refers to his “husband” in the beginning of the ad for Wehby, who is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley, the two are not legally wed under Oregon law. 

“Marrying my husband was the happiest day of my life,” West said in the beginning of the ad. “I was proud of Oregon and our country.” The commercial then cuts to a soundbite about West and Rummell bringing a lawsuit against the state of Oregon that eventually led to the federal court decision that struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

Though Wehby’s campaign knew the couple was not legally wed yet, officials argue the ad is not misleading to voters. 

“I’m proud and humbled to have the endorsement of Ben and Paul. Their courage to stand up for their family, and against inequality is inspiring and embodies the spirit I will serve with as Oregon’s next Senator,” Wehby said in a statement after the endorsement came out.

“My commitment to the families of Oregon begins with providing more jobs, a stronger economy, and better education for families like Ben's and Paul’s, who think our current path is the wrong one.”

Six plaintiffs brought a lawsuit in federal court in Eugene in 2013 against Oregon’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The state declined to defend the ban and in May a federal judge ruled the ban unconstitutional. Couples flooded courthouses the day of the ruling and many lined up at the Melody Ballroom in Portland where mass ceremonies took place. 

But West and Rummell never got married. They held a commitment ceremony in 2010 and considered that their wedding day. 

“In all accounts and purposes he is my husband and we had a wedding. We already went before God. We had a wedding. That’s what you do,” said West, who is raising a son with Rummell. “To us that’s not any less legitimate and we have lived that way ever since.” 

West and Rummell tried to get Gov. John Kitzhaber to marry the couple the day of the court’s decision but it never came together, West said. Instead, the couple is opting for a smaller, more private ceremony in August to celebrate their four-year anniversary with a legal wedding ceremony.  

West, a Republican, threw his support behind Wehby in the statewide ad. 

But West’s support of the Republican candidate has made national headlines and rebuffed some in the gay community. 

The six other plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage case have endorsed Merkley, according to a signed statement on the Democratic Party of Oregon’s website. Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said in a statement on the site that Wehby’s same-sex marriage support is a political move. 

"Despite her election-eve conversion, Monica Wehby was nowhere to be found when we were fighting to end marriage discrimination in Oregon,” Frazzini said. “Wehby’s states’ rights approach would jeopardize basic civil rights for LGBT Americans. She believes states should have the right to discriminate against people based on who they are and whom they love.

"It's clear Monica Wehby can't be trusted in the fight for equal rights.”

The Wehby campaign has been supportive of gay marriage since the GOP primary, according to the campaign. 

The back and forth on the West ad has been brutal, West said. Comments on a story about the endorsement on the Facebook page for LGBTQ news publication PQ Monthly ranged from accusing West and Rummell of speaking out against their own interests to one commenter posting a picture of their son, saying he was glaring because of who his parents are supporting. 

“There has been a lot of vicious backlash and rhetoric and meanness from the community,” West said. “Not everybody in our community even has the same exact voice and idea. There needs to be a room within our community to be tolerant. 

"When we deny that, we are being hypocritical of the very things we are fighting for.”  

 

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