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Over 2/3 of Oregonians believe that same-sex couples should have their relationships legally recognized by the state.
Annabelle Jaramillo
Benton County Commissioner
Philomath, Oregon

Growing up as a Latina in Colorado, Annabelle Jaramillo experienced the fight against discrimination first-hand. "My first civil rights experience was when I was enrolled in a school that had separated Latino kids from Anglo kids," she says. "My mother insisted on integration, and we integrated our school."  She continued this fight once she reached Oregon, becoming the president of National Image, Inc., a Hispanic civil rights organization.

As a Benton county commissioner in 2004, Annabelle again found herself in the front lines of a civil rights struggle--this time for LGBTQ rights. It was then that the Benton County Commission decided to stop issuing all marriage licenses--straight and gay--in response to a demand by Attorney General Hardy Myers that they not issue licenses to same-sex couples.

For Annabelle, it was a matter of principle. "If we were going to end up with discrimination, we weren't going to issue marriage licenses to anyone," Annabelle says. Benton County then became the subject of national and international media attention, and "there was the potential for a backlash," she says. But a backlash never materialized, and Annabelle credits the people of Benton County for their openness. "I have a lot of support from the community," she says. “People here are very accepting."

Annabelle's experience fighting for gay rights in Oregon goes back to 1991 in Corvallis, where she managed a successful campaign to defeat a discriminatory charter amendment promoted by the Oregon Citizens Alliance. "I think everybody deserves equality," she says. "Having fought for civil rights for a long time, I know you can't leave anybody out." end