Wanted: Fair-Minded Oregonians

By Bryan Boyd of Portland, Oregon. Bryan is the Communications Coordinator for Basic Rights Oregon.

On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the Oregon House will vote on two major pieces of historic legislation that would afford basic fairness to all Oregonians, it is so important that Oregon State Representatives hear the message loud and clear, from not only the GLBT community, but from our straight allies as well.

I was recently talking to my brother who lives here in Portland. He's a fiscal conservative, though is socially liberal. We were discussing the two gay rights bills I've been working on for the past few years. When I went into detail about Senate Bill 2, a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in situations such as employment, housing and public accommodation--he suddenly stopped me in shock and said, "Are you kidding me? There is no way that is still actually legal in Oregon."

Though I was a bit surprised that he was unaware of this, I explained that in fact yes, it is perfectly legal for a company to fire an exemplary employee simply because they find out that person is gay or lesbian. It is still perfectly legal in 62% of Oregon to deny a person a hotel room or deny them service in a restaurant--JUST because they of their real or perceived sexual orientation. And the fact is, my brother isn't alone in his disbelief that Oregon still allows legalized discrimination against GLBT folks. The majority of Oregonians are shocked to hear this.

So here we are, 34 years since the first anti-discrimination bill was introduced in the Oregon Legislature. In less than 24 hours, the Oregon House will decide whether or not gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Oregonians should continue to experience discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and whether or not to extend many of the rights, protections and responsibilities, currently only afforded to straight married couples, to gay and lesbian couples and their families.

The Oregon Equality Act (Senate Bill 2) would ban one kind of discrimination. The Oregon Family Fairness Act (House Bill 2007) ends another, by creating Domestic Partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. It isn't marriage, as Oregon has a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples, but it is a huge step forward toward equality, and grants over 500 protections, rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples and their families.

As a progressive community, we must stand up for basic fairness on all fronts. The GLBT community needs you now. We need your help to make sure that 2007 is the year that we end discrimination against so many Oregonians and their families.

I call upon our straight allies to take less than a minute today and call your Oregon State Representative and urge them to vote YES on House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2 (click here to find their phone number). Or if you can't make the call, click here to send an email to them via our online advocacy tool.

The time is now for Oregon's progressive values to ring true and send a ripple of equality across the nation. Together we can and will create a more fair and equal Oregon.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Thanks, Bryan. And yes, we should all stand up against discrimination.

    One important addition: SB2 also protects straight people from sexual orientation discrimination. Yes, you can be fired for "working while gay" even if you're not.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for the update. I'll have to be with you in spirit, since my MRI on my leg tomorrow is at the same time.

    I will shoot off an e-mail, though. I doubt Minnis (my representative) cares what I have to say, but I tell her anyway.

  • LT (unverified)
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    My guess is that if we dug up the rhetoric in favor of Measure 36, we would see some support for civil unions, and few saying "Yes on 36 because gays deserve discrimination".

    I know people who voted or volunteered against 36 because that is the position taken by their congregation--not all religious groups were on the same side of that ballot measure, regardless of what the rhetoric was.

    With regard to hospital visitation, I have startled some people with this story: A family member had an operation and stayed overnight in the hospital, and I went home to watch the news at dinner time. The big story was the Mass. court decision legalizing gay marriage.

    When asked what I feel about the issue, I sometimes say where I was the day that happened, and ask why gay couples should be prevented from having the rights of hospital visitation I had as a family member. Many have no answer for that.

  • Bryan Boyd, BRO (unverified)
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    Thank you to all of you who have been calling and writing your legislators. We're all here in the House Gallery now. The live blogging during floor session will be here.

    The opposition is here as well dwelling amonst us as well, though our blue "Basic Fairness, Basic Rights" t-shirts out-number them.

    Here it goes.

  • Bryan Boyd, BRO (unverified)
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    As far as the opposition's comments regarding their full support of civil unions, I just happen to have quotes handy...

    "Same-sex couples should seek marriage-like rights through another avenue, such as civil unions." Tim Nashif, Oregon Family Council Director and an organizer of the Measure 36 campaign Bend Bulletin 8/20/2004

    "If same-sex couples need legal protection, they should consult their legislative representatives. If they need legislation to do that, no one is going to stand in their way." Defense of Marriage Coalition Executive Director Mike White Lincoln City News Guard 11/10/2004

    "Gay and lesbian couples are free to pursue marriage-like rights via a different avenue, such as civil unions that have been approved in Vermont." Defense of Marriage Coalition Spokesperson Georgene Rice Deschutes County Bulletin 9/30/2004

    "The Coalition’s amendment did not preclude the state of Oregon from creating civil unions, so that same-sex couples could have the same rights as married heterosexual couples." Defense of Marriage Coalition Spokesperson Georgene Rice The Dalles Chronicle 9/30/2004

    So next time you hear these same folks say that "this is the same as marriage--or that House Bill 2007 thwarts the will of the voters, you have these statements.

  • (Show?)

    The Oregon and American majority support fairness and equality, once they understand the facts: people can be fired or evicted in most of Oregon and America based on nothing but who and how they love. Folks with any sense of American history know this is simply wrong.

    Most who react against GLBT folk do so because of the sexual "ook" factor, not because they actively want to discriminate. And, I wonder how many straight people stop to consider that GLBT people think what they do in bed is just as "ooky" (even if we're largely numbed to it by the 24-7 straight-sex barrage of American pop culture).

    The actual point, though, is that none of us should be obsessing over - much less making public policy - based on what other consenting adults do in private. It's none of our damn business. Who we emotionally and physically love, and how, has no impact on our labor output; and public policy in a free society has no business inquiring into any other part of our lives.

    Principled folks all the way from true right to progressive left should have no trouble understanding this point. If anything, respect for freedom at this most fundamental level should unite both ends of the political spectrum.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Bryan Boyd, BRO | Apr 17, 2007 9:54:55 AM

    Thanks for those quotes. That is the sort of thing that needs to be dissmeinated by BRO as far and as wide as possible, which enable all of us to become effective communicators when we run across opposition to equal rights advocacy.

  • Fitz (unverified)
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    yes, it is perfectly legal for a company to fire an exemplary employee simply because they find out that person is gay or lesbian.

    Its also perfectly legal to fire someone because they are heterosexual, or have redhair, or you dont like the cut of their jib,....

    "but it is a huge step forward toward equality, and grants over 500 protections, rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples and their families."

    Yes, sounds like a huge step. Most of those "protections" are those reserved for marriage. Why are we willy nilly applying such "protections" to same-sex couples?

  • (Show?)

    Its also perfectly legal to fire someone because they are heterosexual...

    Actually, that would be protected under this bill as well. Sexual orientation includes heterosexuality as well.

    Why are we willy nilly applying such "protections" to same-sex couples?

    The state legislature has been looking at this issue for 30 years. I'd hardly say that is "willy nilly." And why shouldn't we give these protections to same sex couples? They're equal citizens, the same as us. They're two consenting adults who are in a long term relationship. The only thing that stops them from being able to marry is that they're not one man and one woman. Why should the gender make-up of the couple determine what rights they can and cannot have?

  • Op Ed. (unverified)
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    Jenni: They're equal citizens, the same as us. They're two consenting adults who are in a long term relationship.

    Marriage is not simply "two consenting adults who are in a long term relationship." If it were, there would be no reason not to call any two consenting adults a marriage, including those closely related, or those already married. There are lots of "two consenting adults in a long term relationship" scenarios out there that aren't called marriages. What makes the homosexually intimate relationship more equal than the rest of them. Or didn't you say this was about "equality?"

    The only thing that stops them from being able to marry is that they're not one man and one woman. Why should the gender make-up of the couple determine what rights they can and cannot have?

    Because it determines their capabilities and the challenges and needs that are unique to those capabilites. That's something government cannot change no matter how intrusive you ask them to be. Go ask an adult you trust about this. If the adult doesn't seem to understand what you are asking, try inserting the phrase "birds and bees" into your question.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)
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    OP ED:

    "That's something government cannot change no matter how intrusive you ask them to be. Go ask an adult you trust about this. If the adult doesn't seem to understand what you are asking, try inserting the phrase "birds and bees" into your question."

    Err. So is it a marriage only if the couple has children? Does this mean that my sister and her husband are unlawfully married because they decided not to have children?

    And regarding your understanding of said birds and bees. Last time I checked you didn't need to be married or even committed for the stork to drop a baby off.

    <h2>Again, what are those "unique" needs and capabilities that hetero married couples face? How are they any different than the "unique" needs that any couple faces? And how are they different from the capabilities that any man and woman- whether they hook up at a bar for the night or are married for years- have?</h2>
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