A History of Oregon LGBTQ Equality Law Since 1970
By George T. Nicola
Last updated 7/7/2015 11:25 AM
This article is meant to give a brief description of most major laws, court decisions, ballot measures, and other governmental action that could have in some way affected the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) Oregonians since 1970. These items are generally listed in chronological order, but that is not always possible.
Terminology for our community and our quest for equality has changed from time to time. In this article, I will try to use terms that were most pertinent to the period or situation discussed. Originally, the word “gay” always referred to both gay men and lesbians. Later, the preferred term was “gay and lesbian”. In both cases, bisexual inclusion was always assumed, so “LGB” can be referenced. Eventually, the rights of transgender people were added, so that “LGBT” is frequently used. Because some people in the LGBT array prefer to identity as “queer”, I will often say “LGBTQ”. When I use the term “ally”, I am referring to straight (heterosexual) cisgender (non-transgender) people who have supported LGBTQ equality to a certain degree.
I have documented all my sources as best possible. But in many cases, this cannot be done because it is based on my personal experience or informal chat with a reliable source. All links I have provided were valid at the time this document was written.
When I use the term “The Oregonian”, I am referring to our state’s largest daily newspaper. Most links to that publication’s articles go to a site maintained by the Multnomah County Library. You will need that library’s membership to access them online remotely. However, in each of those instances, I have also provided the article headline, newspaper name, and date so you might be able to reference them from other archival source.
I use the term “same-gender” instead of “same-sex” because I think the first term is clearer. However, I obviously have to say “same-sex” if the term is part of a quote.
I have no way of knowing how these actions are interpreted or even if they are still in force. I am not trained in law, and this document is not intended to be a source of legal advice or analysis. If you have a question about legal rights, please contact a legal professional. If you believe you are the victim of discrimination based on your sexual orientation or your gender identity, please contact the Oregon Bureau of Labor’s Civil Rights Division through http://www.oregon.gov/boli/CRD/Pages/C_Crcompl.aspx.
If you believe there are any inaccuracies in this article, or if you suggest any additions or feedback, please contact GLAPN at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can investigate.
It is my hope that this document will be the basis of further research on the subjects addressed here.
- 1970-1981: Criminal law changes
- 1970-2015: LGBTQ relationships with the Portland area law entities
- 1974: City of Portland resolution banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in municipal employment
- 1975: Burton v. Cascade School District
- 1976-1978: The beginnings of LGBTQ led family law
- 1977-1978: City of Eugene ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation; Measure 51
- 1985: The Multnomah County ban on sexual orientation discrimination in county employment
- 1987-1992: Governor Neil Goldschmidt’s executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment; its repeal by Measure 8
- 1989: Oregon hate crime law that includes sexual orientation
- 1991: City of Portland ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation
- 1992: City of Corvallis ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation
- 1992: The first anti-gay Ballot Measure 9
- 1992-1994: Local anti-gay ballot measures similar to Measure 9
- 1993 : City of Ashland ordinance banning housing discrimination based on sexual orientation
- The OCA’s statewide Measure 13
- 1998: Benton County ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- 1994-1998: Domestic partner benefits offered by state and local government; Tanner v. OHSU
- 2000: The OCA’s second statewide Measure 9
- 2000: City of Portland ordinance banning discrimination based on gender identity
- 2000-2002: Local government domestic partner registries
- 2000: Multnomah County vote to ban discrimination based on gender identity in county employment
- 2001: Multnomah County ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- 2002: City of Eugene readopts an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation
- 2003: City of Lake Oswego ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- 2004: Multnomah County issuance of marriage licenses to same-gender couples; Measure 36
- City of Bend ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- City of Beaverton ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- 2005: City of Lincoln City ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation
- 2006: City of Hillsboro ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- 2007: The Oregon Equality Act and the Oregon Family Fairness Act
- 2007: Wasco County ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation
- 2009: City of Salem ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- 2011: City of Springfield ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation
- 2012-2014. Transgender specific legal advances
- 1991-2014: The long road to marriage equality
- 2014: An attempt at a marriage related anti-gay ballot measure that was thwarted
- Some additional discrimination legal cases noted by the ACLU of Oregon
- Notable instances of alleged discrimination in the past few years
- Oregon bans conversion therapy for youth under the age of 18 by licensed mental health providers
- Some contrasts to neighboring Washington State
- Further reading
Oregon had long maintained a “sodomy law” version that effectively criminalized most types of sex that were not male genital-female genital. As a result, almost all homosexual conduct was illegal. The law was changed considerably through a criminal code revision signed into law by progressive Republican Governor Tom McCall in 1971, taking effect in 1972. At that time, our movement was too young and inexperienced to have any influence on laws. As I understand from my conversation with the late Stevie Remington, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon at that time, her organization lobbied strongly for this reform.
Under the new statute, generally no sexual conduct is illegal as long as it is noncommercial, private, and among consenting adults. However, the statute provided a misdemeanor category for soliciting “deviate” sex in public: “A person commits the crime of accosting for deviate purposes if while in a public place he invites or requests another person to engage in deviate sexual intercourse.”
In late 1972 or early 1973, a gay man told me that he had been entrapped by a police officer in southern Oregon and charged with violating this provision. The incident did not occur in a bar. At that point, I went to the ACLU of Oregon and asked them to take a stand against the law. Their board did so shortly thereafter. That was the beginning of the ACLU of Oregon’s direct work with our movement.
The legal provision itself was declared unconstitutional in 1981 in State v. Tusek. “The unanimous decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals was that the law criminalized speech, specifically a request to engage in legal activity.” The Oregon legislature repealed the provision in 1983. More detail can be found at http://www.glapn.org/sodomylaws/sensibilities/oregon.htm.
Previous to the sodomy law revision that became effective in 1972, actively homosexual men and women were essentially criminals. However, even after the legal reform, it took a long time for law enforcement attitudes to change.
In 1972, a representative of the Portland Police Bureau appeared before the City Council asking for the closure of a popular bar called the Family Zoo simply because it was gay. (From my own reading at that time) The proposal did not succeed. That was probably because the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has the primary determination of what bars retain licenses. Even in the 1960s, the agency had generally refused to close bars on the grounds they had gay clienteles. (http://www.ohs.org/research/quarterly/images/ohq1051boag.pdf)
Beginning in about 1974, a number of gay men were arrested in a street area of downtown commonly called “camp”. In one of the trials I witnessed, the gay man was charged with prostitution, even though the arresting officer never stated that exchange of money had been discussed. The judge found the gay man guilty, although I do not know whether the conviction was for prostitution.
A late friend of mine named Ken told me an experience he had in the 1970s. A stranger called Ken a homophobic name in public just because Ken was wearing earrings. When Ken talked back to the stranger, the stranger attacked him with a knife. Ken related to me that when he went to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office, they talked him out of pressing charges. The DA’s office convinced Ken not to press charges on the grounds that the attacker would simply claim Ken had propositioned him and that he was so freaked out about it that he felt compelled to physically attack.
Portland gay activist Lanny Swerdlow explains that in 1977, he tried to create a safe meeting place for gays who were too young to patronize bars. The youth had been congregating at “camp”, an outdoor area generally around SW Yamhill and Third Avenue. There were as many as 100 kids hanging out there at a time, something that upset others in the area.
Lanny opened a downtown all ages club called Mildred’s Palace. He says that he soon found himself on the outs with the Portland police, who wanted to be able to arrest underage kids for curfew violation. So cops entered his club regularly, arresting some patrons. In one incident a couple months after the club opened, Lanny recalls, the police came into the club, arrested about a dozen kids, in some cases knocking them over. Lanny estimates that about three of the kids were actually bleeding. The police then hauled off about a dozen kids in a paddy wagon.
At that point, Lanny went to the gay civil rights advocacy group Portland Town Council (PTC) for advice. PTC recommended a lawyer who then wrote a letter to the city attorney saying that police could not enter a private establishment and arrest juveniles for curfew violation.
This action stopped police from entering the club. But the police then stationed two juvenile officers outside the club to arrest the underage kids when they exited. To avoid arrest, the kids would sometimes stay all night. Lanny went directly to Portland Police Commissioner, ally Charles Jordan, who happened to be Portland’s first African American City Council member. Jordan sent an aid to observe and found the story to be true. Jordan then told the Police Bureau they could not continue waiting outside the club to arrest patrons, so the problems ceased. (From my phone and email communications with Lanny Swerdlow)
Separately from Lanny’s issue, PTC was also concerned about the entrapment of gay men in adult bookstores. Gay activist Jerry Weller explains that a plainclothes police officer had been going to these regularly. When propositioned by a gay man, the officer would arrest him.
In the early 1980s, ally Mike Schrunk was elected Multnomah County District Attorney. PTC organized a group of about 100 people from our community to meet with him. Schrunk agreed that if a man solicited sex from the officer in an adult bookstore, the officer should refuse. If the officer refused the solicitation once and the solicitor did not pursue it, the DA’s office would not press charges. Schrunk let the police know his new policy. That put a halt to the bookstore police harassment.
In the early 1980s, Portland was the scene of a large number of violent attacks on people thought to be gay. Victims may have been reluctant to report it to the police because they assumed the police were anti-gay. PTC worked with the police to rectify the bashing problem. (From my phone and email communications with Jerry Weller)
On October 12, 1994, The Oregonian carried an articletitled “PORTLAND POLICE, GAY COMMUNITY AGREE TO WORK TOGETHER ON SAFETY”. It stated “On the 14th floor of the Justice Center, police commanders stood side by side with gays, lesbians and members of the `’transgender'’ community to sign a partnership agreement recognizing and protecting the safety of people in these communities.” The meeting was arranged through the Sexual Minorities Roundtable, which had been set up by previous Police Chief Tom Potter.
In 2013, the name of Sexual Minorities Roundtable was changed to the Alliance for Safe Communities. The “group discusses bias crimes and is a liaison mainly between the PPB and LGBTQ community.” Currently it is chaired by Assistant Chief Donna Henderson who is openly lesbian. (https://www.portlandoregon.gov/oehr/article/448864)
In 2013, the Portland Police Bureau produced an “It Gets Better” video to combat homophobia and to reassure and support LGBTQ youth who feel alone and harassed. (http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/06/portland_police_bureau_posts_i.html)
3. 1974: City of Portland resolution banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in municipal employment
Today’s large Oregon LGBTQ movement began with a few small local gay political organizations in the early 1970s. Activists soon realized the need for legal protection from discrimination.
Our earliest attempt at that was House Bill 2930, introduced in the Oregon Legislature in 1973. It failed by a narrow margin. However, the process gained us many allies and created a sense of identity and purpose that helped build Oregon’s movement for our civil rights. For details, see “A History of Oregon’s Major LGBTQ Equality Organizations” at http://glapn.org/6026EqualityOrganizations.html.
At that time, the City of Portland had no general civil rights ordinance to which we could append sexual orientation protection. But starting in 1972, gay activists tried to get the city to take a stand against anti-gay bias in city employment.
In December of 1974, according to The Oregonian, the five member City Council “adopted the city’s first resolution banning job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for city employes.” The vote was 3-2, so we won by only one vote. (“City bans homosexual bias from employment policy”, The Oregonian, 12-19-1974, http://goo.gl/oa2uSp)
The resolution’s sponsor was City Commissioner Connie McCready. Although her City Commission position was nonpartisan, McCready had previously been elected to the Oregon Legislature as a Republican. Joining her in supporting the measure were Mayor Neil Goldschmidt and Commissioner Charles Jordon. Mayor Goldschmidt had long been noncommittal on the issue, but spoke strongly in favor of it at this meeting. He was later elected Oregon Governor. Charles Jordan had been appointed to the City Council in 1974 to fill a vacancy. He was the first African American in that position, and he won some subsequent elections to retain his seat.
Opposed to the passage were Commissioners Mildred Schwab and Frank Ivancie. In the council debate on this proposal, Ivancie declared "I'm not going to support homos in firehouses". (http://wweek.com/___ALL_OLD_HTML/25-1974.html) Ivancie ran against Goldschmidt when the mayor sought re-election, but Goldschmidt won. In an election at a later date, Ivancie beat the very gay supportive McCready in her bid to remain mayor.
Schwab was considered a pioneer for women’s rights. In 1971, she had organized a successful sit-in at a restaurant that would not serve women. (http://web.archive.org/web/20110429084457/http://www.portlandonline.com/omf/index.cfm?a=
149247&c=44053). However, many and possibly most Oregon feminists at that time were supportive of gay civil rights.
Peggy Burton was a school teacher in a small town near Salem. In 1971, she was fired from her position after rumors circulated that she was a lesbian and she refused to deny it. She challenged the case with the help of the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) of Oregon and ACLU associated attorney Charles (Charlie) Hinkle. Here is the outcome of Burton v. Cascade School District as explained to me in an email from Hinkle:
The federal District Court in Portland ruled that the dismissal was "wrongful" and it awarded her $10,000 in damages, plus a modest amount of attorney fees to the ACLU. However, the court refused to reinstate her to her old position, on the ground that reinstatement "would not work" in the small community of Turner, Oregon.  Burton appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld that decision by a 2 to 1 vote. 
This was an early and very important legal precedent against anti-gay employment bias. “That was a great victory because we’d never had any victories up till then in Oregon,” Hinkle notes. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffio4CY-R1M)
More details on the case can be found at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=268465976541634871&q=
See http://glapn.org/6316PeggyBurton.html for more details about Peggy’s experience.
The Portland based non-profit Community Law Project (CLP), which was started in 1976, included a number of lesbian and bisexual women attorneys. According to former CLP lawyer Katharine English, “The CLP won the first contested lesbian custody case in Oregon. The firm represented gay men and lesbians in a variety of causes.”
Former CLP attorney Cindy Cumfer notes that in 1978 the firm began “to successfully lead the fight in Multnomah County courts to persuade judges that homosexuality should not be an issue in lesbian/gay custody cases. She relates that CLP also “did a number of donor insemination agreements that helped lesbians have babies. This laid the groundwork for my adoption case in 1985.” Cindy notes that the 1985 adoption case “served as a prototype for later adoptions around the U.S.”
In 1979 English and Janet A. Metcalf started English and Metcalf, which English describes as “the first openly gay law firm serving the LGBTQ community.” The firm “went on to spur an educational program for judges and lawyers about issues affecting gay men and lesbians, which led to a dramatic increase in wins of custody and visitation” for such parents.
In 1984, Katharine became a Juvenile Court referee. (http://glapn.org/6025Cindy Cumfer.html. (From email discussions I had with Cindy Cumfer and Katharine English)
6. 1977-1978: City of Eugene ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation; Measure 51
In the 1970s, the City of Eugene had an ordinance that banned discrimination in a number of categories. Eugene’s gay community worked for many years to get sexual orientation added. They finally succeeded in 1977. The Oregonian reported that the “measure prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations within the city.” (“Eugene gay rights foes pledge vote on new law”, The Oregonian, 10-26-1977, http://goo.gl/hsOl3h)
The following year, a group called VOICE (Volunteers Organizing and Involved in Community Enactment) collected signatures and managed to get Referendum 51 on the ballot to repeal the ordinance. (“Eugene gay rights vote likely”, The Oregonian, 12-8-1977, http://goo.gl/M0UOjS)
Voters passed Measure 51 by an almost 2 to one margin, so the civil rights protection given to gays was repealed. (“Eugene’s liberal image: a myth?”, The Oregonian, 5-28-1978, http://goo.gl/jwNQ9M)
More details can be found at http://glapn.org/6028DomVetri.html.
In 1985, newly elected Multnomah County Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury spearheaded a resolution to ban discrimination in county hiring on the basis of sexual orientation. The County states that Gretchen “strategically pursued a county ban by resolution - instead of by ordinance - in order to ensure the measure survived.” (https://multco.us/multnomah-county/news/multco-remembers-former-commissioner-gretchen-kafoury)
8. 1987-1992: Governor Neil Goldschmidt’s executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment; its repeal by Measure 8
In 1987, Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt issued an executive order which The Oregonian described as “dealing with sexual orientation and the state government workplace”. The Oregonian elaborated that “This included both personnel actions and the delivery of services to the public. The order didn't apply to state employees not under Goldschmidt’s control, such as judicial workers.” (“BATTLE RAGES OVER MEASURE 8”, The Oregonian, 10-30-1988, http://goo.gl/7glphC)
A group called the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) decided to challenge the order. They gathered enough signatures to sponsor Ballot Measure 8, titled “Revokes Ban on Sexual Orientation Discrimination in State Executive Branch”.
The Voters’ Pamphlet provided this description of Measure 8:
Ballot Measure 8 would revoke the Governor’s Executive Order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment in the Executive Branch agencies and in the provision of services to those agencies.
Ballot Measure 8 would also prohibit any state official in the future from requiring non-discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation. (http://library.state.or.us/repository/2010/201003011350161/ORVPGenMari1988.pdf)
The measure won by a 5.5% margin. (http://bluebook.state.or.us/state/elections/elections21.htm).
An OCA representative responded to their victory by stating ``I think it sends a message that there will be no special rights for homosexuals -- that you can't lump rights for homosexuals with rights for minorities,'' (“OREGON VOTERS OVERTURN GOVERNOR'S ORDER”, The Oregonian, 11-8-1988, http://goo.gl/rsNoax)
According to the ACLU of Oregon, the measure “repealed governor’s executive order and made new law that prohibits government officials from forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation”. (http://www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf)
Harriet P. Merrick, a lesbian employee of the University of Oregon, took the new law to court in cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. The Oregon Court of Appeals 1992 decision in the Merrick v. Board of Higher Education ruled Measure 8 unconstitutional because its effect was “to restrain the right of free expression”. (http://www.qrd.org/qrd/usa/oregon/Merrick-v-Oregon).
Oregon’s attorney general refused to appeal the case to the state’s Supreme Court. (“ANTI-GAY MEASURE TO REMAIN NULL, VOID”, The Oregonian, 12-18-1992, http://goo.gl/MfWdgt)
In 1989, the State of Oregon enacted a hate crime law that includes sexual orientation. This was the first Oregon statewide law that ensured any type of equality based on sexual orientation. It was the result of lobbying on the part of Right to Privacy (RTP) PAC, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, and bisexual equality. Later, the law was amended so that sexual orientation includes gender identity. (Information provided to me by Jerry Weller who had worked with RTP.) Some specifics on what actions constitute hate crimes can be found at http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL33099_20100928.pdf.)
An ACLU of Oregon article states that in 1989, the organization “helped to amend intimidation statue to include sexual orientation (HB 2784). Successfully lobbied for a Hate Crimes Reporting Act (SB 606), including acts based on sexual orientation prejudice.” The same article states that “HB 3211, to prohibit homosexuals from being foster parents, died in committee.” (http://www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf)
After the referendum repeal of the Eugene gay civil rights ordinance, the City of Portland was the first to consider a similar law. In 1991, Portland passed an ordinance that The Oregonian reported banned “discrimination -- based on sexual orientation or source of income -- in housing, employment and public accommodations”
(“GAY-RIGHTS LAW ENACTED”, The Oregonian, 10-14-1991, http://goo.gl/juFMPT).
Portland’s passage of this type of law was 19 years after the first such ordinance in the country, adopted by the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1972. (http://www.advocate.com/news/daily-news/2012/03/07/michigan-city-celebrates-oldest-gay-rights-ordinance-us).
One person who helped craft this was gay activist Keeston Lowery, who at that time was a member of Commissioner Mike Lindberg‘s staff. (http://glapn.org/6342KeestonLowery2013.html) Also helping to craft the ordinance was lesbian activist Kathleen Saadat, at that time a staff member of Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury. (http://glapn.org/6327KathleenSaadat.html)
In Sims v. Besaw’s Café, January 2000, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the City of Portland had a right to pass such an ordinance and that private parties must abide by it. (http://law.justia.com/cases/oregon/court-of-appeals/2000/a99868.html) The ACLU of Oregon calls this ruling a “MAJOR VICTORY”. (www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf)
More information on this case can be found in “PORTLAND LAW LETTING GAYS SUE IS UPHELD”, The Oregonian, 1-27-2000, http://goo.gl/GGFvKo.
Three sources indicate that the City of Corvallis passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1992. However, none of the sources indicate what that covers. Since most other municipalities at that time included employment, housing, and public accommodations, Corvallis's law probably did the same. (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/cities-and-counties-with-non-discrimination-ordinances-that-include-gender, http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=oregon%20gay%20civil%20rights%, http://www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf)
Having succeed in passing Ballot Measure 8, the OCA decided to go much further by sponsoring Measure 9 in 1992. The measure was titled “Government Cannot Facilitate, Must Discourage Homosexuality, Other "Behaviors" (http://bluebook.state.or.us/state/elections/elections21.htm). This voter initiative would have created an amendment to the Oregon constitution, the major part of which would have read:
- This state shall not recognize any categorical provision such as "sexual orientation," "sexual preference," and similar phrases that include homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. Quotas, minority status, affirmative action, or any similar concepts, shall not apply to these forms of conduct, nor shall government promote these behaviors.
- State, regional and local governments and their properties and monies shall not be used to promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.
- State, regional and local governments and their departments, agencies and other entities, including specifically the State Department of Higher Education and the public schools, shall assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth that recognizes homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse and that these behaviors are to be discouraged and avoided. (http://www.co.benton.or.us/admin/elections/documents/archives/1990s/e92g/e92g_svp.pdf, page 93)
The measure’s first item would have prevented any legislation or other government action in Oregon banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The second item could have had various negative outcomes depending how “promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality” was interpreted. The third item was of considerable concern since the public schools would be required to strongly condemn homosexuality as part of their curriculum.
The campaign surrounding Measure 9 led to a bitter and divisive battle. The Oregon Citizens Alliance purported it was trying to prevent “special rights for homosexuals.” Opposition to the measure was bipartisan and included people of many faiths, identities, and ethnicities. Courageous people walked the streets of Oregon’s towns and cities wearing “No on 9” buttons that bore pink triangles reminiscent of the pink triangles gays were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.
The impending threat to gay men and lesbians brought about a peaceful yet powerful response on the part of Oregonians of conscience. Many came out for the first time to people they knew. Voters defeated Measure 9 by an impressive 12.9% margin. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_9_(1992) )
Between the 1992 May primary and the 1994 November general election, the Oregon Citizens Alliance also took local action. Anti-gay initiatives similar to the 1992 Measure 9, but without some of the additional sexual details or education provisions, were placed on the ballots of about 28 Oregon cities and counties. However, it is not possible to know all the specifics. Kate Brown, while Oregon Secretary of State in 2014, told me that her office retained no records of those local elections. ACLU associated attorney Charlie Hinkle checked a number of jurisdictions that had passed these measures, but found that they had been “scrubbed” from their law books.
I base my 28 count on the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Citizens_Alliance. I have verified this either through the citations the article provides, through emails from the ACLU of Oregon and Charlie Hinkle, and by my independent Internet research. Unless otherwise cited, the information in this section comes from those sources.
Based on that, the measures appeared on the ballot but lost in the cities of Gresham and Corvallis. They appeared on the ballot and won in Douglas, Josephine, Klamath, Linn, Jackson, Marion, and Lake Counties; and in the cities of Springfield, Cornelius, Canby, Junction City, Creswell, Estacada, Lebanon, Medford, Molalla, Sweet Home, Keiser, Oregon City, Albany, Turner, Cottage Grove, Grants Pass, Oakridge, Roseburg, and Veneta. Junction City passed a measure in 1993. It was invalidated by a court, so voters passed another measure in 1994. With Junction City counted twice, that adds up to 29 county and city anti-gay ballot measures in the period.
Probably all of the measures were city or county charter amendments and were the same as the one in Springfield. The New York Times reported that one “bars Springfield from taking any step that specifically protects homosexuals from discrimination, and says the town may not ‘promote, encourage or facilitate’ homosexuality.” (http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/14/us/a-blue-collar-town-is-a-gay-rights-battleground.html)
In 1993, the Oregon Legislature invalided these with House Bill 3500, which prohibits local measures that “single out citizens or groups of citizens on account of sexual orientation”. The bill was sponsored by Portland Representative Gail Shibley, the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Oregon Legislature. Two years later, in consolidated cases Mabon v. State of OR, et al and deParrie v. State, the Oregon Court of Appeals found the law to be valid and constitutional. The Oregon Supreme Court denied review. (www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Citizens_Alliance)
However, the OCA continued to sponsor these local measures even after the passage of HB 3500. The ACLU of Oregon and its associated attorneys such as Hinkle spent a considerable amount of time legally challenging these measures. This involved trying to keep them off the ballot after the passage of HB 3500; trying to invalidate those that passed because they violated HB 3500; or challenging a measure’s name to make its real intent more obvious. David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon when all this occurred, wrote to me that “Charlie [Hinkle] also handled a pre-election challenge to an OCA measure that was proposed in Lake County in Kinney v. O’Connor. That pre-election challenge was rejected by the Court of Appeals and the decision can be found at 138 Or App 255 (1995).” The measure was approved by voters in November 1994.
In the case of Umatilla County’s proposed measure, the ACLU won the ballot title challenge. So it was changed to state that the measure would “require discrimination”. Subsequently, the petitioners failed to gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
ACLU attorney Charlie Hinkle, explained to me that a precedent for keeping these off the ballot had been set when the Oregon “Supreme Court had already barred an election on an initiative to block the renaming of Union Avenue to MLK Boulevard.” But “On August 24, 1995, the Oregon Supreme Court held that HB 3500 (which went into effect on August 2, 1993) was not intended to block the elections on the local anti-gay initiatives. (Boytano v. Fritz, 321 Or 498 (1995)). However, since HB 3500 invalidated any local initiatives that were approved, the OCA apparently decided that holding elections on its proposals was a pointless exercise” [after November 1994].
Because the Boytano case was an attempt on the part of the ACLU to keep the measure off the City of Klamath Falls’ ballot, the proposed charter amendment is quoted in the Supreme Court opinion. The major sections, listed below, are probably the same as those of the other local OCA measures.
(a) The City of Klamath Falls, including its Council and elected or appointed officers, shall not make, pass, adopt, or enforce any ordinance, rule, regulation, policy or resolution that extends minority status, affirmative action, quotas, special class status, or any similar concepts, based on homosexuality or which establishes any categorical provision such as 'sexual orientation,' 'sexual preference,' or any similar provision which includes homosexuality.
(b) City funds shall not be expended to promote homosexuality or express approval of homosexual behavior.
(c) This Section shall not be construed to deny any Citizen, based on perceived or actual private lawful sexual practices, any City services, licenses, or approvals otherwise due or available.
(d) This Section shall not be construed to limit public libraries from providing materials for adults which address homosexuality.
(f) Subsection (a) of this Section shall not be construed to forbid the adoption of provisions prohibiting employment decisions based on factors not directly related to employment. If such a provision is adopted, it is the intent of the People that lawful private sexual behavior, or rumor, perception, or knowledge of a person's lawful private sexual behavior, are factors not directly related to employment. If such a provision is adopted, it is the intent of the People that personal expression, conversation or any other free expression concerning private lawful sexual behavior shall also be considered factors not directly related to employment, unless such actions disrupt the workplace.
So this amendment would have prevented the city from passing any sexual orientation civil rights legislation. And even though it did not approve job discrimination based on “lawful sexual behavior”, the qualifier “unless such actions disrupt the workplace” could have, in my opinion, caused problems for some innocent employees depending on what employers and coworkers interpreted as disruption. The measure also stated that “City funds shall not be expended to promote homosexuality or express approval of homosexual behavior.” It did go on to say that was not to be “construed to limit public libraries from providing materials to adults which address homosexuality.” But what does “promote” or “express approval” mean? It seems to me this overall wording might have allowed libraries to carry literature on homosexuality (and by extension the gay or lesbian lifestyle) that portrayed it in a negative but never a tolerant manner. Additionally, some adolescents might not have be able to access resources which explained human sexuality in the rational manner necessary for the physical and mental health of people in their age group. None of the OCA measures mention transgenderism. It was not on their radar at that time. But possibly some of these proposals would have been interpreted negatively toward transgender Oregonians or transgenderism.
Of course, all the above local measures that passed were rendered ineffective by HB 3500. The organization created to fight the local measures – Save Our Communities PAC (SOCPAC or SOC-PAC) remained in existence after the defeat of the local measures and became the primary group that fought Measure 13 in 1994.
The ACLU indicates that in 1993, the City of Ashland banned housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. (http://www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf)
15. 1994: The OCA’s statewide Measure 13
The OCA went on to sponsor more statewide initiatives. In 1994, Ballot Measure 13 was titled: “Amends Constitution: Governments Cannot Approve, Create Classifications Based on, Homosexuality”. This measure failed by a 3.1% margin. (http://bluebook.state.or.us/state/elections/elections21.htm). As indicated by the ballot title, it would have prevented any civil rights legislation based on sexual orientation.
Here is what the ACLU had to say about this initiative:
The OCA has tried to sell this effort as a "kinder and gentler" version of Measure 9, but they have been quick to admit to their supporters and, on occasion, even the news media, that the effect of this measure would be virtually identical to Measure 9. We agree. The effects of both measures are the same: discrimination, censorship and government intervention in our families, schools, workplaces and daily lives. That's why Measure 13 is the "Son of 9." (http://www.skeptictank.org/files/aclu/or_13.htm)
According to lesbian activist Kathleen Sullivan (who led the campaign in 2000 against another Measure 9), the opposition to Measure 13 had a long term positive outcome. The group called SOCPAC (or SOC-PAC) which had been founded to fight the local anti-gay ballot measures was retained to counter Measure 13.
Julie Davis, who ran the campaign to defeat Measure 13, used the SOCPAC structure to create Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) in 1996 “as a way to defeat anti-gay measures in the future”. BRO has since become the major group dedicated to ensuring equality for LGBTQ Oregonians. (http://glapn.org/6026EqualityOrganizations.html)
16. 1998: Benton County ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A section of Benton County code dated August 1, 1998, indicates that the county banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodation. There were previous Oregon ordinances banning sexual orientation discrimination. But from what I can find, it appears that Benton County was the first Oregon jurisdiction to also ban discrimination based on gender identity as well. (https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.co.benton.or.us/boc/documents/code/chapter28.pd
In 1992, Multnomah County “adopted a union package that included medical coverage for unmarried domestic partners, effective July 1, 1993.” The benefit was offered to same-gender as well as opposite-gender partners. (“COUNTY'S DOMESTIC PARTNERS PROVISION ASSURED OF TEST IF MEASURE 9 PASSES” The Oregonian, 9-13-1992, http://0-infoweb.newsbank.com.catalog.multcolib.org/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB08763E1E6C225?
p=AMNEWS) Multnomah County was the first Oregon jurisdiction to offer domestic partner benefits.
However, other jurisdictions were not so eager to do the same. Christine Tanner was a professor at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). She wanted her employer to provide for her female partner the same health care benefits they provided for a straight employee’s spouse. OHSU would not comply. Tanner took the issue to court and won a major victory. According to the ACLU, in Tanner v. OHSU:
The Oregon Court of Appeals became the first court in the nation to decide that government is constitutionally required to recognize domestic partnerships. As important as that holding is, the decision’s importance goes even further.
The Court of Appeals has also made it clear that current Oregon law prohibits any employer--whether public or private--from discriminating in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. That makes Oregon the 11th state to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in employment and the first to do so on the basis of state law prohibiting gender discrimination.
In addition, the Court held the Oregon Bill of Rights requires public agencies--such as OHSU or local governments and school districts--to provide benefits to the domestic partners of their gay and lesbian employees if they provide benefits to the spouses of married employees.
The importance of these three aspects of the decision carry well beyond the actual parties in this case. This decision completely changes the legal landscape of employment law in Oregon and represents a tremendous victory for all Oregonians who have worked hard to provide legal protection on the basis of sexual orientation for all Oregon workers.
The impact of this case will reach well beyond the borders of Oregon. For the first time, an appellate court has said that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional. While Oregon courts may be the first to do so, we are confident that other courts will follow Oregon’s lead. (http://archive.acluor.org/litigation/tanner/tanner1.htm) See also http://archive.acluor.org/litigation/nytimes.htm.
Attorney Charlie Hinkle sent me some email clarifications on this decision. Ten years before Tanner, the ACLU challenged the ballot title for Measure 8. In this case, ACLU v. Roberts, the Oregon Supreme Court stated:
It is possible to construe some Oregon statutes as prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. See, e.g., ORS 659.030 (prohibiting employment discrimination against an individual ‘because of the * * * sex * * * of any other person with whom the individual associates’).” 305 Or at 526-27.
Charlie explains that the application of that employment discrimination statute was not actually at issue in the ballot title case, so “the Supreme Court’s statement was not a binding precedent. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals in Tanner stated that the Supreme Court’s statement was correct, and that the prohibition on “sex” discrimination in ORS 659.030 also applied to “sexual orientation” discrimination.”
The Court of Appeals in Tanner explained as follows:
In our view, the Supreme Court's suggestion in Roberts is the only plausible construction of the statutory language. The statute prohibits discrimination on the basis of the ‘sex * * * of any other person with whom an individual associates.’ ORS 659.030(1)(b). Plaintiffs allege that OHSU discriminated against them by denying them the option of providing their domestic partners insurance benefits because their domestic partners are of the same sex. Discrimination of that sort hinges on the sex of the individual with whom plaintiffs associate. It plainly falls within the wording of the statute.
The Court of Appeals went on to hold that OHSU had not violated that statute (based on an escape clause in another statute), but that OHSU did violate Article I, section 20, of the Oregon Constitution when it gave insurance benefits to the married spouses of its employees but denied the same benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of its employees. In Tanner, the Court of Appeals did say that sexual orientation discrimination in employment was prohibited by the existing statute that barred discrimination on the basis of sex. But because the Court actually rejected the plaintiff’s statutory claim, the Tanner decision was not necessarily a binding precedent on the meaning of the statute.
So the status of sexual orientation discrimination remained murky. The issue could only be fully addressed by statewide legislation that would clearly ban such bias. But I understand that this ruling was used as an argument for the passage of the Oregon Equality Act in 2007 which finally provided a clear anti-discrimination ban.
The full Tanner ruling can be found at http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A94458_a.htm.
The full ACLU v. Roberts ruling can be found at http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=19881967752P2d1215_11919.xml&docbase
More on Chris Tanner’s story is at http://glapn.org/6514TannerChickadonz.html.
In 2000, the OCA sponsored its last anti-gay statewide initiative which was also named Measure 9. Its description was “Prohibits Public School Instruction Encouraging, Promoting, Sanctioning Homosexual, Bisexual Behaviors”. (http://bluebook.state.or.us/state/elections/elections22a.htm). Measure 13 was the only OCA initiative that mentions bisexuality by name. But previous measures could have affected bisexuals negatively.
The Oregon Parent Teachers Association submitted for the Voters’ Pamphlet statement warning that the measure would cut:
1) Access to all health education related to sexuality including abstinence, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS. It would deny all students information they need to make responsible, healthy choices. Given that our youth are among the fastest growing population of those at risk for HIV/AIDS we cannot afford to ignore this danger to our kids.
2) Counseling or support programs for all adolescent students, making it even more difficult for teenagers to come to terms with their sexuality or for counselors to give teenagers information about support groups.
The statement went on to say “State funding could be cut because of what one person might say. We can't let the agenda of one extremist organization endanger the health of our children and the quality of their schools.” (http://oregonvotes.org/pages/history/archive/nov72000/guide/mea/m9/9op.htm)
This initiative lost by a 5.8% margin. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Oregon_ballot_measures)
In December, 2000, The Oregonian reported that the Portland City Council voted unanimously “to add ‘gender identity’ to the city's 1991 civil rights ordinance” which already banned employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation. (“CITY EXPANDS RIGHTS ORDINANCE TO TRANSGENDERS, The Oregonian, 12-14-2000, http://goo.gl/AkwdMr).
In July, 2000, Multnomah County created a domestic partner registration system for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. The Oregonian reported that “The registry will allow homosexual and heterosexual couples who live together the chance to publicly and officially document their relationships.” It was also hoped that it would help local governments and private employers that offered benefits to domestic partners with a tool for verifying relationships.
(“DOMESTIC-PARTNER REGISTRY DRAWS LITTLE OPPOSITION”, The Oregonian, 7-30-2000, http://goo.gl/u1Qy03)
A similar system may have been created by the City of Eugene at a later date. (“Eugene takes steps to set up gay registry”, The Register-Guard, 4-18-2002, http://goo.gl/jHuAJ7)
In December, 2000, The Oregonian reported that the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners “unanimously approved an amendment to its bylaws that prohibits officials from discriminating in hiring for county jobs on the basis of gender identification.” The amendment went into effect in March 2001.
(“COUNTY TAKES UP RIGHTS FOR GAYS, TRANSGENDERS”, 12-15-2000, The Oregonian, http://goo.gl/WNsvVD)
22. 2001: Multnomah County ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
On November 30, 2001, The Oregonian reported that “An ordinance banning discrimination in housing and public accommodations based on gender identity, sexual orientation or source of income won final approval on Thursday from Multnomah County commissioners.” The article continued “The unanimous vote gives residents in unincorporated areas of the county protections identical to those approved by the Portland City Council late last year.” (“ABOUT TOWN COUNTY COPIES CITY'S BAN ON HOUSING DISCRIMINATION”, The Oregonian, 11-30-2001, http://goo.gl/J935g4)
You will recall that the City of Eugene was the first Oregon governmental body to ban sexual orientation discrimination, but that the action was voided by a referendum in 1978. It appears that in 2002, the City of Eugene again passed an ordinance which banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. This time it was not overturned by voters. I do not see gender identity referenced in the new ordinance. (http://www.eugene-or.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/Index/282)
24. 2003: City of Lake Oswego ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
In October of 2003, The Oregonian reported that Lake Oswego passed an “antidiscrimination ordinance” that “extends protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.” It “forbids discrimination in public and private workplaces, places of accommodation such as restaurants, and housing.” The law took effect the following January and was to be enforced by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries (“LAKE OSWEGO EXTENDS RIGHTS FOR SEXUAL MINORITY GROUPS”, The Oregonian, 10-23-2003, http://goo.gl/14CxPw)
On March 3, 2004, Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples. The action resulted from the county attorney’s opinion that refusing to issue same-gender couples marriage license was a violation of the Oregon Constitution. (http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=multnomah-county-or-board-of-county-commissioners-cr.xml)
However, no other county in the state interpreted the law that way. So on March 24, 2004, the ACLU of Oregon, on behalf of nine same-gender couples and Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), sued the State of Oregon in Multnomah County Circuit Court challenging the state’s marriage statute that discriminated against same-gender couples by denying them marriage and the rights and protections that come with it. Oregon’s equal protections provision, Article I, section 20 of the Oregon Constitution states: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.” The lawsuit, Li and Kennedy, et al v. State of Oregon was filed in accordance with an agreement between the ACLU, Multnomah County, the State of Oregon, and the Defense of Marriage Coalition, an organization formed to oppose same-gender marriage.
On April 20, 2004 Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Frank Bearden issued his decision. Judge Bearden agreed with the ACLU that the Oregon state law was unconstitutional under Article I, section 20 of the Oregon Constitution. At the same time, Judge Bearden ordered the state to register the existing licenses of almost 3,000 married same-gender couples, ordered Multnomah County to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples and provided the state legislature the opportunity to extend marriage to same-gender couples or to devise a system of civil unions like that adopted by Vermont. Judge Bearden required the Legislature to address this matter.
But in early March 2004, the Defense of Marriage Coalition had already begun gathering signatures for a voter initiative that would ban same-gender marriage in Oregon by amending the state’s Constitution.
The title of Ballot Measure 36 read “AMENDS CONSTITUTION: ONLY MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS VALID OR LEGALLY RECOGNIZED AS MARRIAGE” The actual amendment text was “It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.” The Measure passed by a substantial 13.3% margin on November 2. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_36_(2004))
When it was challenged through a lawsuit, Martinez v. Kulongoski, the measure was upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals. (http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1211424922128160.xml&coll=7). According to BRO which has since the mid-1990s been this state’s major organization promoting LGBTQ equality, the decision was appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, but the high court denied the petition to hear the case. (http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-5370-oregon_supreme_court_sidesteps_measure_36.html).
Li and Kennedy, et al v. State of Oregon was not decided by the Oregon Supreme Court until after the passage of Measure 36. On April 14, 2005 the Oregon Supreme Court invalidated the 3000 marriages performed the previous year in Multnomah County. It did not reach the issues whether civil unions are required by the Oregon Constitution. (http://www.aclu-or.org/content/li-and-kennedy-v-state-oregon)
26. 2004: City of Bend ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
In May of 2004, a website called Free Republic stated that the City Council of Bend unanimously passed an ordinance that “prohibits discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or transgenderism”. A group opposed to the law tried to get it overturned through the initiative process. However, they failed to gather enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot. (“Once-conservative Ore. city edges leftward”, Free Republic, 8-16-2004, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1192406/posts) Bend is in a city in central Oregon, an area that is mostly small town and rural.
27. 2004: City of Beaverton ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
In December, 2004, The Oregonian reported that the City of Beaverton passed an ordinance banning “discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations such as retail stores and restaurants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” The ordinance had “exceptions for religious and personal situations. Churches and other buildings used primarily for religious purposes and rooms rented within a home” were “exempt.”
(“BEAVERTON LAW TO PROTECT GAYS”, The Oregonian, 12-10-2004, http://0-infoweb.newsbank.com.catalog.multcolib.org/iw-search/we/InfoWeb?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_docnum=1&p_sort=YMD_date:
In 2005, The Oregonian reported that “Lincoln City (population: 7,500) approved an equal-rights ordinance outlawing discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation.”
(“EDITORIAL Hold up a mirror to show the state of discrimination”, The Oregonian, February 19, 2006,
29. 2006: City of Hillsboro ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
In August, 2006, The Oregonian reported that “Hillsboro became the ninth city in the state to approve a citywide ban on discrimination involving sexual orientation and gender identity.” The ordinance prohibited “discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations such as retail stores and restaurants”, and was scheduled to take effect within 30 days. (“Hillsboro approves ban on bias against gays”, The Oregonian, 8-17-2006, http://goo.gl/txVSN7)
In the spring of 2007, Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski signed into law two important bills. The first statute, the Oregon Equality Act, banned discrimination based on sexual orientation (defined to include gender identity) in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other categories. The law went into effective January 1, 2008.
Here is summary of the law provided by a prominent Oregon law firm:
The Oregon Equality Act prohibits discrimination against persons in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, which is broadly defined to include "actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth."
Under local ordinances, sexual orientation and gender identity already have protected class status in Multnomah, Benton and Wasco counties and in several Oregon cities. The passage of the law expands statewide protections beyond those provided since 1998 by the Oregon Court of Appeals' decision in Tanner v. OHSU. The law amends Oregon’s civil rights statutes, explicitly making workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity an unlawful employment practice. Oregon becomes the 18th state to ban sexual orientation discrimination.
More thorough information on the Oregon Equality Act can be found at http://www.lambdalegal.org/sites/default/files/publications/downloads/fs_oregon-equality-act_0.pdf. This list includes not only employment, housing, and public accommodations, but also financial transactions, jury service, state institutions, foster parenting, and public schools.
The Oregon Equality Act was passed after 34 years of lobbying efforts to enact a similar law. In fact, such bills were introduced in every session of the Oregon Legislature starting in 1973. The earliest proposals did not include gender identity. (http://glapn.org/6110earlyattenpts.html). The statute’s passage was also 25 years after the first such statewide law banning sexual orientation discrimination was enacted by the state by Wisconsin in 1982. (http://www.mkelgbthist.org/events/community/ab70.htm)
The second 2007 Oregon state statute was the Oregon Family Fairness Act. This created for same-gender couples a domestic partner registration system that provided most of the benefits and obligations of marriage. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_partnership_in_Oregon#House_Bill_2839. It was effective February 4, 2008. Here is one summary of the law:
The Oregon Family Fairness Act establishes domestic partnerships that give same-sex couples most of the benefits of marriage under Oregon law, including parental rights and responsibilities for a same-sex partner with respect to a child of either partner. Because of the passage of Measure 36 in 2004, Oregon’s Constitution retains the "one man and one woman" definition of marriage. This new law provides for a contractual relationship. Any same-sex couple can enter into a domestic partnership; no "solemnization ceremony" is required. (http://www.stoel.com/employment-law-alert-oregons-sexual-orientation-and-domestic)
As noted above, the Oregon Family Fairness Act was necessary at that time only because Oregon voters had banned same-gender marriage in 2004. However, Oregon same-gender marriage was legalized in 2014 through a U.S. District Court ruling. (http://glapn.org/6018HistoryOregonMarriage.html)
The statutes both passed after an intense lobbying campaign by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO). Opponents planned referendums to overturn both statues. However, Basic Rights Oregon took action to make sure we did not face another ballot measure. BRO launched a public education program to help people understand the new laws. (“Hetero 'Voices' speak up for gays”, The Oregonian, 7-12-2007, http://goo.gl/YhRjPa)
According to BRO Executive Director Jeana Frazzini, “we fought them [the referendum’s sponsors] every step of the way, challenging ballot titles, ensuring that they couldn’t get away with any misleading language. In the end, they had to throw up their hands and give up.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPGTODhLxvA) Opponents of the new laws did not get enough signatures to put a challenge to either measure on the ballot. (“State Domestic Partnership Law Stands for Now”, The Oregonian, 8-15-2008, http://goo.gl/FIPbtj)
In July, 2007, according to Internet site Gay Rights Watch, rural Wasco County became the thirteenth Oregon municipality to pass “an ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment, housing and public accommodation”.
“The Wasco County Court passed it unanimously with little opposition”. The news site mentions that the state had already passed such a law, but there was a concern that the statewide statute would be overturned by a referendum. The proposed referendum never got on the ballot.
32. 2009: City of Salem ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Under Salem Revised Codes, the city states a policy that it wants to “eliminate discrimination” on a number of bases, which include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. It then lists as unlawful, discrimination on these bases in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The date on this document is June, 2009, but that might pertain to other sections. (http://www.cityofsalem.net/Departments/Legal/Pages/SalemRevisedCodes.aspx).
Based on other articles I have found, I think the ordinance was passed long before 2009.
In December, 2011, the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reported that the City of Springfield passed an ordinance amending its “charter by adding ‘sexual orientation’ to a list of classes for which an individual cannot be treated with prejudice.”
Some additional details of interest from the article:
The amendment was essentially a “housekeeping matter,” said Joe Leahy, Springfield’s city attorney, as the clause was mistakenly left out of the discrimination section when Springfield redrafted its charter in 2001.
The ordinance won’t bring about any practical change as discrimination against gays and lesbians is already prohibited at the state level, Leahy noted. Under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, discrimination against homosexuals is illegal in areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, foster parenting and jury service.
The addition marks the first time Springfield has explicitly taken a position against such discrimination since the city drew national attention in 1992 for becoming the first in America to add anti-gay language to its code.
That year, 55 percent of Springfield voters approved a ballot measure that barred the city from taking any step that specifically protected homosexuals from discrimination, and stated that the city could not “promote, encourage or facilitate” homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism”.
“The measure has put Springfield on the map nationally and internationally as the city that voted to institutionalize discrimination against homosexuals,” a Register-Guard editorial asserted on June 19, 1992. (“Springfield law protects gays”, The Register-Guard, 12-6-2011, http://projects.registerguard.com/web/newslocalnews/27279492-41/springfield-discrimination-charter-1992-addition.html.csp
The 1992 measure mentioned in the above excerpt was one of the first instances of the Oregon Citizen Alliance’s local anti-gay initiatives which I described earlier. So the government of a city whose electorate was once known for supporting a very anti-gay law reversed course, apparently without notable opposition from its population. If attitudes had been the same as they were in 1992, voters would probably have overturned the ordinance by referendum. They did not do that. However, it probably would have had no effect since by that time Oregon had a statewide law banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
Although the 2007 Oregon Equality Act had banned discrimination based on gender identity in important categories including employment, housing, and public accommodations, there remained a number of legal issues that are specific to transgender people. Many of these involved health care.
In 2012, after two years of lobbying by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), “the Portland City Council unanimously voted to end insurance exclusions against transgender City employees.” (http://www.basicrights.org/news/trans-justice-news/city-of-portland-wins-trans-inclusive-healthcare/)
In late 2012, the State of Oregon announced it would prohibit health care providers from discriminating against a policy holder based on their actual or perceived gender identity and expression. This means that health insurance plans sold in Oregon could no longer deny care to transgender policy holders which is provided to non-transgender (cisgender) policy holders. (From email former BRO staffer Sasha Buchert sent me.)
In early 2013, Governor John Kitzhaber signed House Bill 2093, making Oregon just one of a handful of states to remove the onerous surgery requirement imposed on transgender Oregonians seeking an accurate birth certificate. As a result, transgender Oregonians are now able to access a legal change of gender without costly, undesired, or unobtainable surgeries. Basic Rights and TransActive were the major advocates who made this possible. (http://www.basicrights.org/uncategorized/victory-birth-certificates-for-transgender-oregonians/)
In early 2013, the Oregon Health Plan announced that beginning October 1, 2014, it would cover the cost of pubertal suppression treatment for transgender adolescents and teens. Oregon became one of only two states (California is the other) to provide this coverage, which is expected to save the lives of many transgender youth who would otherwise be at risk of suicidal ideation and attempts because of the changes happening to their bodies. Pubertal suppression also greatly enhances the quality of life of transgender youth by giving them the option to develop physically in a way that more accurately represents their gender identity. Prior to initiation of puberty suppression therapy, adolescents must fulfill eligibility and readiness criteria and must have a comprehensive mental health evaluation. (From an email Jenn Burleton of TransActive Gender Center sent me)
State of Oregon employee Alec Esquivel wanted his employer to pay for transition related healthcare. The state refused, so Alex sued. In 2013, the state settled the landmark case Esquivel v. Oregon, by removing the exclusions that denied coverage to transgender people for transition-related health care. This set a crucial legal precedent for all other 49 states. (http://glapn.org/6360AlecEsquivel2013.html)
In January 2015, BRO wrote on their web site:
Basic Rights Oregon is profoundly excited the Oregon Health Plan now includes transgender health care. The new health care policy makes it possible for trans people to get lifesaving health care effective January 1, 2015.
Our excitement comes with caution—there may be some challenges in the first few months and years as this policy is fully implemented. It will take time to meet the health needs of all trans communities in Oregon.
Oregon Health Plan insurance coverage will include coverage for most transition-related healthcare under the state’s Medicaid Program, Oregon Health Plan. These services include coverage for puberty suppression, primary care and specialist doctor visits, mental health care visits, cross-sex hormones, anti-androgens, lab work, and some surgeries. Oregon Health Plan will be able to start paying for these services, but it does not automatically grant access to all of these services. Individuals will need to work with their doctors to determine what treatments are medically necessary for them and then work together to go through the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care protocols to access certain treatments. (http://www.basicrights.org/featured/ohp-covering-transgender-health-services-2/)
In January 2015, BRO’s web site also announced “that the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has a new policy for people to change their gender marker on their driver’s licenses, making it easier for transgender people to change their gender marker to reflect who they are.” (http://www.basicrights.org/news/oregon-dmv-simplifies-process-for-updating-gender-marker/)
For additional information on transgender specific legal issues, see BRO’s Transgender Justice page at http://www.basicrights.org/programs/transgender-justice/.
Earlier in this article, I recounted how Oregonians banned same-gender marriage in 2004 by amending our state’s constitution through Measure 36.
Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) responded with a multiyear program educating the public on why marriage is important to so many in our community. By early 2013, polls showed that a majority of Oregonians might finally support marriage equality. So BRO began plans to launch what at the time seemed the only way to win the freedom to marry -- an initiative to amend the state constitution to legalize it. To manage the process, BRO and other equality groups set up an umbrella organization called Oregon United for Marriage (OR4M).
Through early 2014, OR4M did a spectacular job mobilizing over 4000 volunteers, gathering signatures, obtaining impressive endorsements, winning hearts and minds, and helping to raise marriage equality support in Oregon to 55%. But it would still have been laborious and expensive to extend these efforts to the November 4 election.
In mid-2013, openly gay attorney Lake James Perriguey, working independent from OU4M, became convinced Oregon could win the freedom to marry in federal court. In October 2013, Perriguey and openly lesbian attorney Lea Ann Easton, filed the lawsuit Geiger v. Kitzhaber in U.S. District Court in Eugene. The suit was on behalf of two Oregon same-gender couples. It asked the court to overturn Oregon’s ban. Outside of the plaintiffs’ control, the case was assigned to a 2013 Obama appointee, Judge Michael McShane, a highly respected jurist who also happens to be openly gay.
Eventually, Basic Rights Oregon also determined that marriage equality in Oregon might be achieved through the federal courts before the planned November 2014 initiative. That strategy would also save the additional $10 million it would take to win on the ballot. So in December 2013, attorneys for the ACLU of Oregon and Basic Rights Oregon Education Fund filed Rummell v. Kitzhaber in the same court with the same goal as Geiger v. Kitzhaber. This suit was on behalf of two other same-gender couples. Judge Michael McShane was assigned this case as well. Given their similarity, he consolidated the two. Only the state of Oregon was eligible to defend the marriage ban, but Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum refused to do so. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geiger_v._Kitzhaber#Attorney_General.27s_response)
On May 19, 2014. McShane issued his ruling. He stated that “The Court finds that there is no legitimate state interest that would justify the denial of the full and equal recognition, attendant rights, benefits, protections, privileges, obligations, responsibilities, and immunities of marriage to same-gender couples solely on the basis that those couples are of the same gender.” He proceeded to declare that Oregon’s constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that as such it is void and unenforceable. (https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=9653016037172204268&hl=en&as_sdt=
6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr) Oregon same-gender weddings started the same day.
Although various efforts were made to challenge this series of events, none were successful. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geiger_v._Kitzhaber) For more detail on this and for citation for much of this section, please see my article “A History of Oregon Marriage Equality” at http://glapn.org/6018HistoryOregonMarriage.html. On June 26, 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges unrelated to the Oregon case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no state or territory in the country could deny same-gender couples the right to marry. (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/obergefell-v-hodges/)
Previous to the judicial marriage victory, we were faced with the possibility of another anti-gay ballot measure. IP52 was filed in November of 2013 by an Oregon Family Council offshoot calling itself Friends of Religious Freedom. According to the Portland Mercury, IP52 “would have allowed people, businesses, and corporations to deny services that contribute to same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnership ceremonies ‘if doing so would violate a person's deeply held religious beliefs.’" (http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/pride-before-the-fall/Content?oid=12466444)
Oregon United for Marriage (OU4M) launched Oregon United Against Discrimination (http://www.oregonunitedagainstdiscrimination.org/) to stop the ballot measure and defend Oregon’s LGBTQ population from discrimination. Those efforts were very effective: Oregon United Against Discrimination (OUAD) quickly made a strong case in the media that the initiative would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, and built a coalition of businesses, faith leaders, communities of color, and other organizations opposed to the discriminatory measure. Behind the scenes, OUAD organized more conservative political and faith communities to withhold support for the measure. In addition, OR4M, Basic Rights Oregon, and ACLU of Oregon challenged IP 52's ballot title, successfully arguing that the initiative carved out an exception to Oregon's anti-discrimination measure. Thanks to these combined efforts, the measure's backers suspended their effort on May 9, just a week after OUAD's first television ad debuted, and the same day Oregon's leading businesses launched the Businesses United Against Discrimination campaign. (Details provided by email from Amy Ruiz who had worked for OU4M)
The Portland Mercury reported that on May 8, the Oregon Supreme Court approved ballot language for the initiative—the verbiage Oregonians would read while deciding how to vote. The ballot title included the word "discrimination” five times. Friends of Religious Freedom suspended its campaign because they felt they could not pass a measure with that wording. (http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/pride-before-the-fall/Content?oid=12466444)
Below are some additional LGBTQ discrimination cases with which the ACLU of Oregon notes it has assisted: (http://www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf)
1976 Weaver and Littman v. School District 4J: School officials would not allow student newspaper to run an advertisement for a gay student group that wanted to advertise a meeting.
1979 Ashling v. Ashling: The ACLU “Successfully represented divorced lesbian to contest a restriction placed on her visitation rights with her children.”
1993 Morrison v. City of Gresham Fire Department: A firefighter was harassed by coworkers, then given a career limiting blot on his record, apparently because he marched against an anti-gay ballot measure. With the ACLU’s help, the situation was resolved.
Since the 2007 Oregon Equality Act was passed, there have been a number of high profile instances which were challenged as violating it. These had to do with public accommodations.
In 2013, the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), which enforces the state’s civil right laws, ordered Portland bar owner Chris Penner to pay $400,000 to the T-Girls, a group of transgender and crossdressing people whom Penner asked not to return to his bar the previous year. The penalty was the first imposed under the 2007 Oregon Equality Act. On August 29, 2013, The Oregonian newspaper reported that “Investigators found no evidence to support Penner's contention that the T-Girls disrupted business. In October , investigators announced that the bureau found substantial evidence of discrimination against the transgender patrons. The bureau then tried to reach a settlement with Penner. When no settlement could be reached, [BOLI Commissioner Brad] Avakian said, and [sic] he took the case to a hearing.” (http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/08/bureau_of_labor_and_industries_1.html)
In 2013, Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, citing their religious beliefs, refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. (http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/02/sweet_cakes_by_melissa_discrim.html) The same-gender couple took the issue to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI).
BOLI issued the following statement regarding the agency’s Proposed Order in the Sweet Cakes case: “The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins' unlawfully discriminated against the Complainants. Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007.”
As part of the Proposed Order, the administrative law judge awarded $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination. The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the Complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature. (http://m.golocalpdx.com/news/support-sweet-cakes-by-melissa-gofundme-page-violates-terms)
In early July 2015, Commissioner Avakian issued his final order, confirming the $135,000 fine. "This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage," Avakian wrote. "It is about a business's refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.” (http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/07/sweet_cakes_final_order_gresha.html)
39. Oregon bans conversion therapy for youth under the age of 18 by licensed mental health providers
In early 2015, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law the Youth Mental Health Protection Act. According to Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), this law “bans conversion therapy for youth under the age of 18 by licensed mental health providers.” BRO explains that “Conversion therapy includes a range of dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation or suppressing their gender identity or expression.” Oregon was only the third state after California and New Jersey to enact such legislation. (http://www.basicrights.org/featured/hb-2307-signed-into-law-conversion-therapy-banned-for-youth-in-oregon/) Several months before she signed this bill, Kate Brown became the first openly LGBTQ person in history to become governor of any state.
Usually, but not always, neighboring Washington State has advanced on LGBTQ equality more quickly than Oregon.
Washington’s earliest gay politically oriented organization began in 1959, whereas Oregon waited until 1970. Seattle banned public and private job bias based on sexual orientation in 1973. Portland banned only municipal employment in 1974, and did not cover private employment until 1991. (http://www.ohs.org/research/quarterly/images/ohq1051boag.pdf) Oregon, however, reformed its sodomy law effective 1972 so that consensual, adult, private, noncommercial homosexual conduct was no longer illegal. Washington did not do so until 1976 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_laws_in_the_United_States)
Washington’s governor issued an executive order banning state employment sexual orientation discrimination in 1987. (http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2012/06/pdf/state_nondiscrimination.pdf) Oregon’s governor issued a similar order that same year, but it was almost immediately challenged by a ballot measure that overturned it. It took four years for the ballot measure to be overturned by a court.
Washington added sexual orientation and gender identity to its statewide civil rights law in 2006. Oregon did the same the following year, effective 2008.
Oregon endured 35 anti-gay ballot measures. The wave of anti-gay measures faced in Oregon never fully gained a foothold in Washington. Most of the Oregon measures were sponsored by the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA). The OCA actually went to Washington State and attempted to gather signatures to place on the ballot initiatives which would have restricted LGBTQ rights. Their two attempts were repelled by a group called Hands Off Washington, and none of the measures even got on the ballot. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Citizens_Alliance#Hands_Off_Washington)
However, Washington has still had a number of home grown gay-related ballot measures. In 1978, a measure proposing to repeal a Seattle ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation failed by a 63% vote. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_US_ballot_initiatives_to_repeal_LGBT_anti-discrimination_laws).
On November 6, 1990, Seattle voters turned down Initiative 35, thus maintaining a municipal ordinance recognizing domestic partners. On the same day, voters in Tacoma voted against “a proposal, the second within a year, to grant equal rights to homosexuals.” http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8208)
Washington also had two statewide referendums which were attempts to challenge legal rights given by the state to same-gender couples. In 2007, Washington passed a law creating the State Registered Domestic Partnerships (SRDP) system. This allowed same-gender couples some benefits which opposite-gender couples were given through marriage. In 2009, the SRDP statute was extended so that domestic partnerships were given most of the benefits and responsibilities of marriage without being called marriage. A group called Protect Marriage Washington challenged this with Referendum 71. These types of referendums require voter approval before a law may go into effect. Washingtonians voted to approve the new domestic partnership law by a 6.3% margin. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Referendum_71_(2009))
Washington never had a law banning same-gender marriage. It legalized marriage equality by legislative action in 2012. When that was challenged by a referendum, voters upheld marriage equality, a victory that was made possible with the help of activists from Oregon organized by Basic Rights Oregon. In contrast, Oregonians banned same-gender marriage in their constitution through a 2004 voter initiative that won by a huge margin. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_36_(2004)) As noted above, that was effective until the ban was lifted by a federal court decision in 2014.
In both Washington statewide referendums, a majority of voters in Washington’s Clark County, which is just across the river from Portland, rejected these measures, thus opposing equal rights for same-gender couples. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Referendum_71_Results.png) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_r-74.svg)
Oregon took a long time to legislate antidiscrimination measures for LGBTQ people. Additionally, we have had to endure 35 anti-gay ballot measures.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is now banned by state law. Those anti-gay ballot measures that passed were either overturned by courts or invalidated by legislative action. Eugene and Springfield, at one time hotbeds of homophobic ballot measures, eventually made peace with the issue by passing sexual orientation and gender identity anti-bias ordinances that were not overturned by voters. In the past few years, significant advances have also been made in legal rights which are transgender specific.
So although it has been a rough road, we have largely triumphed legally. At the same time, these protections do not guarantee non-discrimination. Nor do they protect us from homophobia, transphobia, and various other subtle assaults on our dignity. We must continue to remain vigilant, but at least we now have the law on our side.
ACLU OF OREGON AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF LESBIAN AND GAY OREGONIANS: http://www.aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/Iss_LGBT_chrono.pdf
A History of Oregon’s Major LGBTQ Equality Organizations: http://glapn.org/6026EqualityOrganizations.html
A History of Oregon Marriage Equality: http://glapn.org/6018HistoryOregonMarriage.html
Early Attempts at Oregon Gay Civil Rights: http://glapn.org/6110earlyattenpts.html
The Sensibilities of Our Forefathers: The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States – Oregon: http://www.glapn.org/sodomylaws/sens
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