[Brought to you by Loaded Orygun, the Oregon journal of politics and culture...]
Hooray! It ain't marriage and it ain't portable, but if you're gay and one of you lives in Oregon, now at least you can get the same state rights and benefits as married couples routinely do...and that's a great thing. A long time coming, and another reminder that ELECTIONS MATTER. These bills died in 2005 despite a Dem-led Senate and Governor's mansion; the House was still led by the GOP. In 2006 control flipped and--like magic, NOT!--now suddenly they are law. From Basic Rights Oregon:
This morning, in a public ceremony attended by well over 100 citizens and legislators, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed two bills into law ensuring that all Oregon families are treated with basic fairness and that all Oregonians can live and work free from the sting of discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
In a passionate speech at the signing ceremony, Basic Rights Oregon's Executive Director John Hummel told the crowd, "Our hope is simple. It is for the day when Oregon families will no longer be forced into uncertainty in times of crisis, and when no Oregonian will be fired from their job, denied housing or denied an education--simply because of who they are or who they love. Today marks a moment in time when Oregonians proudly made hope a reality, and created a fairer, more equal Oregon."
House Bill 2007, the Oregon Family Fairness Act, creates legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families through Domestic Partnerships. These Domestic Partnerships provide some, but not all, of the protections, rights, and responsibilities afforded to straight couples through marriage contract. It is different from marriage in several important ways, including the lack of portability to other states and lack of more than 1100 federal rights like Social Security survivor benefits.
"This pro-family bill will bolster family security, by providing critical protections in times of crisis," said Hummel. "It is a tremendous step toward equality."
Senate Bill 2 outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment, housing, public accommodation, public education and public services. Religious employers, organizations and institutions are exempt.
"After 34 years of working to end discrimination, this law was long overdue." commented Hummel. "The Oregon Equality Act creates uniform law across Oregon so that protection from discrimination doesn't depend on one's zip code and the rules for employers, landlords and business owners are clear and consistent."
The passage of these bills carries national implications as well. According to an analysis released today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, recent passage of anti-discrimination legislation in four new states, including Oregon, has resulted in "the percentage of the U.S. population living in a jurisdiction protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination [to] rise to 52 percent, crossing the halfway mark for the first time."
The study also noted that "Five years ago (in 2002) just one state, Vermont with 0.2 percent of the [U.S.] population, offered broad protections to same-sex couples. When the bills passed this session take effect, seven states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont), with 20 percent of the population, will offer broad protections to same-sex couples."
Responded Hummel to the Task Force study, "Once again Oregon is a national leader in providing basic fairness to all its families. Today is a proud day to be an Oregonian."
Since this diary has made it to the rec list (thanks folks!), why not add the goobernor's comments?
"I started this legislative session declaring that this is the session of opportunity, where we will succeed in affording all Oregonians the same rights and protections under the law – and where we will formally recognize that diversity and equality of opportunity makes us all stronger, not weaker," Governor Kulongoski said. "And today we’re upholding that promise and the values and principles of Oregon – that we are all created equal and that Oregon is a land of equal opportunity for all of our citizens."
"If you look at the majority of the bills that pass each session, they are what I call transactional," the Governor continued. "However, every decade or so there are a few bills that are actually transformational – and House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2 are two pieces of legislation that will literally transform our state from one of exclusion to one of complete inclusion."
Governor Kulongoski began his struggle to ban discrimination against gay and lesbian Oregonians during his first term in the Oregon State Legislature, 1975. During that session, he introduced legislation prohibiting such discrimination. Although it failed on the House floor by one vote, the Governor has continued to fight for equality throughout his career.
"This has been a long road traveled. It has taken patience. It has taken perseverance. It has taken our will to never give up on the dream of hope and opportunity for all Oregonians," Governor Kulongoski said. "And today, we can deliver that dream by ending legal discrimination once and for all against gays and lesbians in Oregon – and by extending protections and legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families."