Thursday, May 10, 2007

I have no quote to use for this title!

Remember those two gay rights bills that passed the Oregon legislature? Well Oregon's governor just signed them into law.
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed two historic gay-rights bills into law Wednesday. One would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians. The other would grant domestic partnerships.


Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the two bills on the west steps of the capitol under sunny skies and in an unusually cold breeze. The crowd included the veterans of gay rights campaigns that have been raging at the ballot and in the legislature for more than three decades.

Kulongoski introduced a gay rights bill as a legislator in 1975. Now as Governor, he signed two measures he called transformational.

Ted Kulongoski: "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."

House Bill 2007 allows gays and lesbians to enter into domestic partnerships, which grant all the state benefits of marriage, without marriage itself. Senate Bill 2 adds sexual orientation to Oregon's anti-discrimination statutes.

Just three years ago, Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts was downright giddy about the dramatic change in political fortunes gays and lesbians have seen.

Barbara Roberts: "I have never been so proud in my big 70 years. (crowd applauds) I have never ever been so proud to be an Oregonian."

Oregon is now one of 18 states with a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and one of 9 or 10 that offer some sort of rights to same-sex couples. Both bills take effect January 1.

The domestic partnerships offer the same benefits as marriage... at least, as far as Oregon can do so:
[D]omestic partners will be able to file joint returns in Oregon, but will have to file as singles on their federal forms.

A person who includes his or her domestic partner in an employer's health coverage would have to report the value of that insurance as income for federal tax purposes -- but not for state taxes.

The Oregonian, meanwhile, highlights why the anti-discrimination bill is necessary:
Kurt Koester was a groundskeeper at Lewis & Clark College in Southwest Portland when his supervisor said something about gays that scared him.

"Where I come from, we string those people up and hang them," the supervisor said, according to Koester, who is gay.


Oskkar Walker, 33, filed a complaint in 2004 against his employer, a Home Depot in Clackamas, public records show. Walker, whose former name was Bekke Walker, had begun taking hormones to change his gender identity from female to male. As his voice deepened and he grew a beard, his supervisors started to treat him differently by giving him unfair evaluations and falsified write-ups, his complaint said. Eventually, he was fired.

Home Depot attorneys denied discriminating against Walker, arguing that he was fired for poor performance. Walker -- who later sued Home Depot in Multnomah County Circuit Court and lost a jury trial -- now works for a competing chain of home improvement stores and said he couldn't comment on the case. But, in general, he said, without specific laws against discrimination, "it's scary" to come out as a transgendered person at work.

"That means that any moment I could be fired, and there doesn't have to be an explanation for it," Walker said.

Other complaints to state investigators include one from a gay salesman at a Portland auto parts store who said he was harassed and ultimately fired because of his sexual orientation. The harassment included a boss who asked "if I could put on a pretty dress and pose for glamour shots."

In another case, a gay man who worked at a Portland grocery store complained that his manager made frequent off-color comments about gays and once joked about "gay-bashing queers." When the store closed, the man complained that straight employees received transfers to other branches, while he was fired.

And this page has some discussion about the way certain people voted:
East Multnomah County representatives overwhelmingly rejected House Bill 2007, which legally recognizes committed same-sex couple as domestic partners, and Senate Bill 2, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

However, East County's sole member of the majority party — Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham — voted in favor of both.

"I felt pretty good about my vote," she said regarding the Senate's 21-9 passage of House Bill 2007 on Wednesday, May 2. "I just feel that there is a class of people that has been discriminated against, and we just can't have that in this society. We just can't. I'm a church-going person and we're all created equal in God's eyes."

Rep. John Lim, R-Gresham, said he voted no against the bills because he believes in his district, 65 percent of which voted for Measure 36.

"People firmly believe that a marriage should be between a woman and a man," Lim said, referring to the state constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2004.

Which is why, Mr. Lim, gay marriage is banned in your state. Many commenters on that article also pointed out that while people believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, they also overhwelmingly support domestic partnerships... as long as you don't call them "marriages".

But wait. Mr. Lim has more to say on the matter of whether gays can be fired just for being gay.
As for Senate Bill 2, Lim said he voted against it because he felt the bill creates a protected minority. While ethnic minorities may have been born part of a minority, for lesbians and homosexuals, "I think it's a choice of lifestyle in my opinion," Lim said. Then referring to his Korean roots, Lim quipped, "I'm not comfortable giving me a minority status."

Um. Yes, it does protect minorities. You'd think someone of Asian ancestry in this country might recognize why that's important--if not, I'd be more than happy to explain to him. However, it doesn't just protect minorities; it protects anyone being fired for their sexual orientation, be they gay or straight. And by the way, Mr. Lim? No matter how often you repeat your homophobic talking points, no matter that you claim they're only an "opinion" (because as we all know, opinions are never wrong), there is still no such thing as a gay "lifestyle" any more than there is a straight lifestyle, a Korean lifestyle, or a Republican lifestyle. Gays are simply people. Someday, hopefully, you'll come to understand that.

Oh, and guess what? Apparently treating people equally is discrimination!
"This (House Bill 2007) does it only for certain perverted lifestyles. It doesn't allow domestic partnership privileges if it's a father and son or two old maid sisters or family members that for financial reasons need to live in the same household. So it's a very biased, prejudiced measure on top of everything else, on top of the fact that it flies in the face of constitutional amendment Measure 36. ... It definitely deserved a referendum."

This according to Jack Brown, of the State Constitution Party of Oregon. So let's get this straight, Mr. Brown. Depriving people of a constitutional right to marry the person of their choice is okay, but trying to give those same people some of the same rights that you, as well as these fathers, sons, and two old maid sisters already enjoy, is "prejudiced"?

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