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Volume 35
Issue 10
 
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Oregon: Two bills aim to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Oregon: Two bills aim to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
PORTLAND, OR -- Two pieces of vital legislation were introduced today, together aimed at ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oregon. These bills, HB 2007 and SB 2, implement the recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on Equality - a diverse committee of business, clergy and civil rights advocates from across Oregon. The Task Force invested seven months in assessing current Oregon law, analyzing applicable legal precedent, and listening to public testimony at open meetings across the state. Based on this process, the Task Force recommended action on both anti-discrimination and relationship recognition legislation this legislative session.

"Basic Rights Oregon is thrilled to be able to give this legislation our full and unequivocal support," said Interim Executive Director Aisling Coghlan. "This is a proud day for Basic Rights Oregon and for our state, and we applaud Governor Kulongoski and the House and Senate leadership for recognizing the importance of extending basic fairness to all Oregonians."

House Bill 2007, The Oregon Family Fairness Act, would:

Create a new Oregon law to legally recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples and their families. While this legal recognition is not the same as marriage, it would confer on same-sex couples certain legal protections, rights and responsibilities similar to those generally afforded to opposite couples through marriage.

Without the establishment of a legal relationship to one another, same-sex couples lack critical protections that support couples and families in times of crisis, allow committed partners to care for one another and keep their children and families safe from harm. Although there are a limited number of protections that can be obtained through contracts and legal arrangements, these options are costly and fall seriously short of the full spectrum of protections families need.

As recommended by the Governor's Task Force, this bill differs from the civil union legislation in 2005's SB 1000 in several ways, including:

Creation of Separate Civil Union Statute: The 2007 legislation will create a new stand-alone statute for Civil Unions that is totally separate and distinct from marriage;

Residency Requirement: There will be a residency requirement placed on couples seeking to enter into a civil union; Solemnization Provisions: The 2007 legislation will eliminate the solemnization requirements, and simply allow a same-sex couple to contractually obligate themselves to each other without needing a clergy member or judge to make it official.

"Civil Unions are not marriage," said Coghlan. "Unlike marriage, civil unions are only valid within the boundaries of Oregon. And unlike marriage, civil unions don't come with the over one thousand federal benefits of marriage. But even without these marriage protections, legally recognizing same-sex relationships is a huge step toward basic fairness in Oregon."

Senate Bill 2, The Oregon Equality Act, would: Amend Oregon's existing non-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, public accommodation, education and public services statewide.

Currently, there is nothing in state statute making it illegal to evict a good tenant, deny a patron service at a restaurant or refuse to hire a qualified candidate just because of a person's real or perceived sexual orientation. While non-discrimination ordinances have been successfully implemented in a handful of Oregon cities and counties, this has resulted in an inconsistent patchwork of laws across Oregon.

"The Oregon Equality Act will create uniform law across the state, so that employers, landlords and business owners have clear and consistent guidelines," said Coghlan. "Protection from discrimination shouldn't depend on one's zip code. All Oregonians ought to be treated fairly under the law no matter where they work, live or travel in Oregon."

"These two bills are the culmination of a thirty-year effort to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," continued Coghlan. "And in large part they are a result of the hard work of Basic Rights Oregon's committed volunteers during the 2006 election on behalf of fair-minded candidates. We eagerly anticipate working collaboratively with the legislature and Governor to ensure passage of these historic bills."

Basic Rights Oregon will kick off its 2007 legislative campaign for Basic Fairness on Wednesday, March 7th with its largest-ever Day of Action, including citizen lobbying and a rally on the Capitol steps. Keynote speakers to include Christine Chavez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, along with numerous elected officials.

Basic Rights Oregon is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oregon. For more information, please visit our website at www.basicrights.org.

A Basic Rights Oregon press release

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