The realities of day-to-day life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Oregonians has changed a lot since ROP first organized rural communities to defeat Measure 9 – the anti-gay ballot measure which sought to define homosexuality as ‘abnormal and perverse’ and enjoin state agencies from doing anything to ‘promote the homosexual agenda.’
“[New laws] have given us a marginal success in areas where we didn’t have protections before,” says Allison Elise Cleveland, director of The Gender Center Inc. in Lane County. “Before laws enacted in 2008, there were… only a few zip codes that offered protection from discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in some civil matters. With the advent of these laws we’ve been able to advocate for people around the state in areas that beforehand would have been hopeless. We’ve achieved some very important milestones, but we need to strengthen language in existing laws and continue outreach and education into municipalities and corporate worlds.” Discrimination against gender and sexual minorities is still very real and present. In fact, Allison is filing her own discrimination suit today.
The good news is that across rural Oregon, new people and new groups are stepping up and standing up for gender justice.
Suzann Chapman from Union County is organizing a new PFLAG chapter in Union County that will meet for the first time later this month: “Now is the perfect time to start these conversations in our community. I have a lot of concerns in my heart for the youth, especially, with the prejudice they encounter, especially in the highschools. I want to be available as a resource to help families and youth. I want to make a difference in a positive way.”
Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity member Kevin W. is bringing a group of seven youth from the Scappoose high school’s newly formed Gay Straight Alliance to Basic Rights Oregon’s Stand Out! For Equality lobby day and rally in Salem this Friday to strengthen Oregon’s anti-bullying law to protect LGBT youth who are bullied just for being who they are. “As a gay man living in Warren, I think it’s important that Columbia County catches up with the times. Formation of the GSA in the high school is a good example of how progressive our community has become and that it does not discriminate. By supporting students’ participation in the Stand Out! event, we are showing our community support for the GSA group and our community’s youth.”
At Basic Rights Oregon’s Stand Out! For Equality lobby day, participants will learn all the ins and outs of the Oregon Safe Schools Act (HB 2599) and hear from elected officials like Secretary of State Kate Brown and Representative Tina Kotek. BRO has also set up visits with the lawmakers who will vote on the Oregon Safe Schools Act. Please consider joining ROP’s partners at BRO for this important event. There are just 24 hours left to register!
And then join other rural activists committed to human dignity for all at the ROP Rural Caucus and Strategy Session on March 15th & 16th in Salem, OR. At the Gender Justice workshop we will take stock of how the LGBT rights movement has evolved since ROP began in 1991. We’ll look at the changes in language, the new alliances that have been formed, and the experiences of rural Oregonians – as well as what’s happening this year and how you can be involved. Register today