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Richardson e-mail draws heat from gay, lesbian advocates

Gay and lesbian advocates have condemned an e-mail newsletter from Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, that seemed to lump the Oregon Legislature's passage of domestic partner legislation with the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Richardson's April 20 newsletter opened with this passage: "This past week has been like no other. On Monday the world witnessed the tragedy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. On Tuesday Oregon witnessed the passage of Domestic Benefits for same-sex couples (HB 2007) and Civil Rights based on sexual orientation."

Leslie Stone, chairwoman of the Abdill-Ellis Lambda Community Center in Ashland, said she was "appalled" to read that Richardson, the House Republican whip, had written that the passage of an equal rights bill is a tragedy.

The newsletter brought a flurry of comment on Internet political sites such as Oregon Blue, Basic Rights Oregon and Gay Rights Watch. Some sites urged readers to e-mail Richardson, but his office said they had received less than a dozen critical messages.

In an interview, Richardson said the domestic partner bill and the shootings in Virginia are "two separate, disparate events."

"The first paragraph makes it look like I was connecting them, but I didn't intend to," he said.

Richardson sent an e-mail to his newsletter list Wednesday saying his April 20 newsletter should not be interpreted to connect Virginia Tech and the domestic partner bill.

Richardson's House colleague, Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, called the newsletter "extremely unfortunate "¦ an incomprehensible comparison." Buckley added that he didn't believe Richardson intended to be malicious.

Restore America director David Crowe in Beaverton said in an e-mail that the group plans to draft a ballot measure to overturn the domestic partner and equal rights bills, which Gov. Ted Kulongoski has said he will sign.

Buckley predicted a "strong majority of Oregonians want people to be treated fairly" and will not respond to Crowe's "extreme, outlandish efforts to whip up fears with harmful divisiveness."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.