SALEM, Oregon, May 9, 2007 –
“Oregon is a land of equal opportunity for all our citizens” – words that
could well have been heard by adventurous American pioneers of the 19th
century at the end of their 3,500-kilometre journey west along the Oregon
But it was the words used by modern-day
pioneer –Governor Ted Kulongoski who this morning 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.
More than 100 legislators and
citizens were on hand to watch as the Governor put pen to paper on the West
Steps of the State Capitol to approve House Bill 2007 (Oregon Family
Fairness Act) which introduces ‘domestic partnerships’ and Senate Bill 2, a
measure which adds sexuality to the State’s existing discrimination laws.
“Our hope is simple,” Basic Rights
Oregon’s executive director John Hummel told the crowd ion a passionate
speech at the signing ceremony adding that “today was a proud day to be an
“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. But it is different
from marriage in several important ways, including the lack of portability
to other states and lack of more than 1,100 federal rights like Social
Security survivor benefits.
“This pro-family bill will bolster
family security by providing critical protections in times of crisis,” Mr.
“It is a tremendous step toward
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 Mr. 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 two bills in
Oregon also carries national implications.
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
It is illegal under current law in Oregon to refuse
to employ or otherwise discriminate against a person because of race,
colour, national origin, sex, religion, age and mental or physical
Thirty-seven years ago, a young and up-coming
politician introduced legislation in the Oregon House that would have
added sexual orientation to the list. The 1975 proposal failed.
Posted: 9 May 2007 at
22:00 (UK time)