Senator Jeff Merkley: The Real Champion for LGBT Equality

By Roey Thorpe of Portland, Oregon. Roey works with the national LGBT equality movement. She is a former executive director of Basic Rights Oregon and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. Before coming to Oregon, Roey also served as a city councilwoman and acting mayor of Ithaca, New York.

I'm guessing that, like me, you were surprised to see that one of the plaintiffs in the court case that won the freedom to marry in Oregon is now featured supporting Senate candidate Monica Wehby in her latest TV commercial.

Everyone has the right to support the candidate of their choice, of course. But I wanted to take a moment to share why, as a long time leader in the LGBT community, I continue to be steadfast in my support of Senator Jeff Merkley and why I believe he is without question the real champion for LGBT equality in this race.

Senator Merkley’s unwavering support for fairness and equality for gay and transgender people dates back to his time in the Oregon State Legislature when I was Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. As Speaker of the Oregon House, Merkley led the effort to pass Oregon’s landmark non-discrimination law. And years before, when he was House Minority Leader, I watched in awe as he stood up in protest as the Republican leaders used procedural tricks to keep our bill from coming to a vote we would have won, and speaking up even as they gaveled him down time after time.

As our US Senator, Jeff Merkley has brought that same passion and grit to the job, and is known nationally as the champion for passing employment non-discrimination at the federal level.

The fight to win the freedom to marry in our state has been a long journey—much longer than any 55-day count down to Election Day could possibly reflect. There have been many champions along the way, including elected officials, volunteers, and most of all the loving, committed couples from all over this state who shared their stories of love and commitment.

Some of those champions were with us at the beginning, while others joined along the way and still others have voiced their support only now that the freedom to marry has been secured. Senator Merkley is one of the people who has not only been with us, but has been leading the way with courage and conviction for every single step of this journey.

All of the plaintiff couples deserve our thanks as we continue to celebrate this landmark decision. But that does not mean we all agree on every political issue. After all, the LGBT community, like all communities, is diverse in our opinions. Building statewide support for the freedom to marry took one of the largest, politically-diverse coalitions the state has ever seen. Our movement was strengthened by bringing together people of all political views, spiritual beliefs, and walks of life and continues to be strengthened by this diversity.

It is important that all of us who care about LGBT equality understand Senator Merkley’s leadership and perfect record. He has never wavered in his commitment to equality for LGBT people and I believe he deserves the same level of support in return. I am so proud that he is my US Senator and hope others will join me in supporting Senator Merkley.

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