Let's stand up and be counted for equal rights

Elleanor Chin FacebookTwitter

By Elleanor Chin of Portland, Oregon. Elleanor is a Board member of the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women. She is an attorney, writer, mother and gardener.

If you're on Hawthorne Street in Portland, or near Powells on Burnside, or downtown these days, you're pretty likely to be hit up by signature gatherers for ballot measures. Yesterday I was approached for the GMO labeling measure (twice) and a marijuana legalization measure (and learned there are three different signature campaigns relating to marijuana legalization). There is a July deadline for signatures for the November election and besides, it's spring in Oregon!

I wasn't approached yesterday by someone asking for signatures for the Oregon Equal Rights Amendment measure, but I have been, at least three times recently. Each time it makes me happy and each time I say, “already signed!”

In Oregon, in 2014, we have a particular opportunity to stand up and be counted when it comes to treatment of gender under the law. There is an active campaign to put an Equal Rights Amendment to the Oregon Constitution on the November ballot. The Oregon ERA would amend the Oregon Constitution to specifically ban discriminatory treatment on the basis of gender. Currently neither the federal nor state constitutions offer explicit protection against gender discrimination.

The opportunity comes during a rare major public discussion of women's experience of misogyny in daily life, sparked by the May 23 mass murder in Isla Vista California, in which the killer provided 100+ page statement and at least one video detailing his personal history and frustrations, including rage, sexual frustration and resentment directed towards women. The Twitter campaign #YesAllWomen developed in response to a social media thread arguing that “not all men” are violent and misogynistic. The YesAllWomen hashtag trended all weekend and included numerous women describing their experiences of sexual harassment, job discrimination, sexual assault.

A constitutional amendment banning discrimination on the basis of gender not only offers women protection from unfair treatment in work and school, but it is a statewide policy statement that Oregonians do not believe that people should be subject to invidious distinction on the basis of gender. It also forces some confrontation of the impact and nature of individual discriminatory acts. Constitutional anti-discrimination protection does not prevent misogyny or individual acts of violence or change minds any more than the Fourteenth Amendment ended racism, but it narrows the opportunities for formal, institutionalized acts of discrimination, and provides opportunities for redress.

Oregon has also been part of the “Equal Rites” movement recently, with Judge Michael McShane's marriage equality decision on May 19. We have momentum for equality in Oregon so sign a ballot petition today. You don't have to go looking for someone out on the sidewalk, an individual petition is available at VoteERA.org. Sign it and mail it and tell your fellow voters.

Comments

guest column

connect with blueoregon