A group opposed to gay marriage is working on a ballot initiative that would effectively allow businesses and individuals to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Oregon Family Council, the Christian conservative group that spearheaded the 2004 campaign that led to passage of the state's constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual unions, on Thursday filed paperwork for a referendum which would allow individuals and businesses to refuse participating in or supporting same-sex unions, including marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Wording for the group's Protect Religious Freedom Initiative must first be approved by state officials before it can begin collecting the 87,000 valid signatures needed to reach the 2014 ballot.

Teresa Harke, communications director for Oregon Family Council, told the Portland Tribune that the measure was needed to protect marriage equality opponents who are afraid to speak their minds.

“They've almost been beaten down to the point where they're afraid to speak out,” Harke said.

Marriage equality supporters have mounted a statewide campaign for a 2014 ballot question which seeks to reverse the 2004 marriage ban championed by Oregon Family Council and legalize gay nuptials in the state.

Harke said that her group would focus on passage of the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative, suggesting that it has abandoned plans to campaign against passage of the marriage equality initiative.