Valentine's Day seemed as good a time as any to kick off a statewide initiative to place same-sex marriage before Oregon voters in 2014.
For Shianne Spiker, 14, showing support for the issue comes down to a simple idea.
"Love is love," she said. "It doesn't matter who the other person is, when you love someone and want to give them your hand in marriage, it shouldn't matter the other person's sex."
The Medford Congregational United Church of Christ opened its doors Thursday to those wishing to sign the petition to place the initiative on the 2014 ballot.
The goal of the measure is to reverse the 2004 gay marriage ban, which was passed by voters with a 57 percent to 43 percent margin.
For this measure to pass, 1,000 valid sponsorship signatures are required, followed by 116,284 valid signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Basic Rights Oregon, the state's leading gay-rights group, formed the campaign organization to get the "Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative" amendment on the ballot, according to The Associated Press.
Shelby Spiker, who attends North Medford High School, said most teenagers she knows would not object to same-sex marriage become legal in Oregon.
"There are definitely some people who are not cool with it, and I respect their opinion," the 15-year-old said. "But I feel most are open to it."
Deanna Gheen, 41, said public opinion on the issue has come along way since her teenage years.
"It just wasn't accepted then," the Medford resident said. "A lot of people I went to school with have since come out, but said they didn't feel comfortable doing it back then."
Amy Ruiz, the spokeswoman for Basic Rights Oregon, said the rallies in 14 cities across the state were successful Thursday.
"It was amazing to see so many Oregonians come out to support the freedom to marry," she said. "We are hearing reports that we have more than 1,000 signatures so far."
Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Gov. Barbara Roberts attended a Portland event Thursday to sign the sponsorship petitions the organization needs to advance the initiative, the AP reported.
Ruiz said more rallies and community activities are planned as 2014 approaches.
Patty Enriquez, 20, said having the Medford rally held at a church was a nice gesture.
"It was a surprised it was held at a church, but a pleasant surprise," the Rogue Community College student said.
Enriquez said it was a positive development that religious leaders were showing more support for same-sex marriage, but there is still a long way to go before it is universally accepted.
The church's pastor Kurt Katzmar said same-sex marriage is strongly supported by his congregation.
"There's a huge change going on, and not a millennium too soon," he said. "We strongly support marriage equality because we support all human beings."
If the measure passes, the church will host same-sex marriage services, Katzmar said.
Meanwhile, Illinois made a large stride toward same-sex marriage legalization on Thursday. A bill passed that state's senate and will head to its house for possible approval. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign the bill into law if it passes both houses, the AP reported.
Oregon and Illinois are working toward joining nine other states that have lifted same-sex marriage bans, according to The Associated Press.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email email@example.com.