Calling it a "truly historic day" for Oregon, Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Wednesday signed bills to give gays and lesbians most of the benefits of marriage under state law and to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.
With several hundred gay rights supporters looking on, Kulongoski signed measures stymied for more than 30 years in the Legislature but recently approved by the House and Senate.
Kulongoski, a strong backer of both measures, said they would "transform our state from one of exclusion to one of complete inclusion."
One law will enable same-sex couples to enter into contractual relationships with many of the benefits offered to married couples. It calls the relationships "domestic partnerships."
The other will ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in employment, housing and access to public accommodations. Both are effective Jan. 1.
Oregon joins Vermont, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, Maine and Washington state in offering civil unions or domestic partnerships to same-sex couples.
Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry. The New Hampshire Legislature recently approved a civil unions measure expected to be signed soon. Hawaii extends certain spousal rights to same-sex couples, along with cohabiting heterosexual pairs.
Oregon now is one of 18 states with laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.