Sally Sheklow

A Joyful Cry

Those cheers you heard wafting down from Oregon’s Capitol last month signaled another major surge toward justice. For the record, on May 9, 2007, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed two historic bills—the Oregon Equality Act and the Oregon Family Fairness Act—with all the pomp and ritual you’d expect in a law-signing ceremony.

Sally (right) and her partner at a gay marriage rallyWith one awesome sweep of his mighty pen (seven sweeps of seven pens, actually), the guv officially outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and legally recognized domestic partnerships. Seven dignitaries, all advocates for equality and fairness for all Oregonians, each received a ceremonial pen, to great applause. Governor Ted beamed at the crowd and held up the two newly signed bills. That got a huge ovation.

Yeah, baby, victory is sweet. Rather, we expect it will be. The new laws don’t take effect until January. Still, we won, and we’re celebrating. Despite the best efforts of the Republican minority, come the new year we will be out there exercising our newly legalized right to equal treatment under the law. God only knows what that’ll look like.

Domestic Partner sign, photo by J. MeyerSpeaking of God, there are a few exceptions to Oregon’s new nondiscrimination requirements. Houses of worship need not comply. No kidding. They’re perfectly free to fire or refuse to hire gay, bi, lesbian or trans employees. The new law lets them hang on to their abomination theology-based discriminatory employment policies, an exemption they fought for dearly, lest they be forced to face the specter of a gay receptionist, a lesbian janitor, or a transgender Sunday school teacher. Heaven forbid.

As we’ve come to expect, passing these laws hasn’t made the opposition go away. We’re already getting an earful from the no-special-rights-immoral- behavior-save-our-children-yammer-yammer bunch. Before dust has settled on the seven engraved cases in their seven commemorative pens, our Secretary of State received a filing for repeal from the Oregon Constitution Party (not a party you’d want to take your girlfriend to). They have until October to gather 55,000 signatures to put a referendum on the 2008 ballot. That ought to be pretty easy, considering they have no regard for the separation of church and state and their constituents, anxious to avoid burning in hell, will sign whatever their pastors hand them.

Sally and her partner getting registered as domestic partners, photo by J. MeyerSpeaking of hell, once this thing gets on the ballot, Oregon’s in for another epithet-hurling queer-bashing resource-depleting year. We’ll be up against the multi-million dollar Christian Coalition. Homo-hating religious nuts from across the country are already pumping in the campaign bucks to convince Oregon voters gay people are Satan incarnate. Bless their souls.

No sooner do we take the Band-Aids off our victory dance blisters than the religious right comes galloping in to smash our disco ball. Boo!

Good thing we’re skilled multitaskers. We can celebrate our win, proudly take our place among the 18 states (and counting) whose laws now protect all their citizens, and at the same time launch a kick-ass decline-to-sign campaign. Stay tuned to the grapevine for another big Woo Hoo! out of Oregon.

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