Our Priorities for Lived Equality in Oregon

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Lived Equality photo Photo provided by Basic Rights Oregon.
  By Joe LeBlanc, Basic Rights Oregon At Basic Rights Oregon, we are in full swing with the Oregon Legislative session for 2015, building a broad and inclusive politically powerful movement, shifting public opinion, on our way to achieving more policy victories. Volunteers from across Oregon are talking with legislators about the critical issues impacting their communities. We have had survivors testifying about their experiences with conversion therapy and why those dangerous practices need to be banned for youth in Oregon. People have shared their stories about how racial profiling impacts them daily as an LGBTQ person of color. Others have shared stories about how not having paid sick days impacts the livelihood of queer and transgender Oregonians and their abilities to provide for their families. As Oregon’s statewide advocacy organization for LGBTQ Oregonians, our work is about achieving lived equality. It’s about making sure that the lives of all of our community members are not only protected by legal equality but also rooted in safety and opportunity. We’ve made progress in Oregon. What’s next? We’ve made tremendous progress in Oregon during the last decade—we have won comprehensive non-discrimination laws, passed laws for safer schools, secured the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and improved access to health care for transgender Oregonians. However, the road to lived equality is still long for many LGBTQ Oregonians, particularly those who are immigrants, people of color, live in smaller towns and rural communities, youth, transgender or seniors. To achieve the freedom of both legal and lived equality for all Oregonians, Basic Rights Oregon is working with coalitions throughout the state to organize, educate and activate our communities to defend the progress we have made, and create new policies that promote fairness, equality and self-determination for all our communities. Below is a snapshot of some of the bills we are supporting: Basic Rights Oregon Sponsored Bills
  • HB 2307, The Youth Mental Health Protection Act: This act would prohibit licensed professional mental health providers from doing dangerous and discredited “conversion therapy†on minors. Similar legislation has passed in California and elsewhere. Current Status: Passed the Oregon House in a 41-18 vote, and has been referred to Senate Human Services and Childhood Committee with a hearing hopefully scheduled soon.
  • SB 473, Accurate Data Collection: This bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of demographic data already collected by universities, colleges and community colleges. The Oregon Student Association is leading this bill. Current Status: Amendments are being finalized and it passed the Senate Education Committee with a 4-3 vote on March 31. Referred to the Ways and Means Committee.
  • HB 2759 and HB 2478, Update and Modernize Oregon’s Marriage Statutes: These bills would amend Oregon’s state marriage laws to be a gender-neutral contract between two spouses and phase out Oregon Registered Domestic Partnerships, which are now obsolete. Current Status: Referred to the House Rules Committee.
Basic Rights Oregon Priority Coalition Partner Bills
  • HB 2002, End Profiling: This bill would ban profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, age, sexual orientation, physical or intellectual disability, serious medical condition, income, language, political affiliation or religion. It would require all of Oregon’s law enforcement agencies to train their officers on how not to profile. And it creates an additional way for victims of profiling to get justice. LGBTQ communities particularly LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, have a long history of being targeted unfairly by law enforcement. Current Status: House Judiciary hearing was held on March 30.
  • HB 3025, Ban the Box: This legislation would remove the box on employment and housing applications that require applicants to disclose whether or not they have been convicted of a crime. This is important because LGBTQ people of color, particularly transgender people, are unfairly targeted by law enforcement and as result, disproportionately make up people who are incarcerated. LGBTQ communities are consistently pushed into an unfair and biased criminal justice system without the resources to navigate it. Once out of incarceration, most housing and employment applications require Oregonians to report past convictions—nearly ensuring homelessness and joblessness. Current Status: House Committee on Business and Labor hearing held on March 25.
  • SB 454, HB 2005, Paid Sick Days for Workers: These bills would give all full-time workers in Oregon 40 hours of paid sick time per year to use when they or a family member gets sick. Currently, 40 percent of private-sector workers and 80 percent of low-income workers have no paid sick days from their job–not one. Every one of us gets sick occasionally, but not everyone gets the time they need to recover or care for sick family members–and it affectsall of us. Paid sick time is vital to the economic security of our families of color. Current Status: Referred to the Ways and Means Committee for a work session on March 30.
  • HB 2009, Increase the Minimum Wage: This bill would raise the minimum wage in Oregon to $15 an hour. The minimum wage was intended to be a minimum living wage, but it’s not and it’s hurting our families. Maintaining a poverty minimum wage hurts all Oregonians. Current Status: Referred to the House Business and Labor Committee, hearing scheduled on April 13.
Each of these bills impacts LGBTQ communities throughout Oregon daily, and if passed would allow us the ability to survive and thrive as Oregonians. We continue to be a multi-issue movement, working across identity, and collaborating with other communities to make progress and real change. We need your help in this work, and we look forward to seeing you across the state as we continue our work to achieve lived equality for all Oregonians.                 Joe LeBlanc is the Online Engagement Manager at Basic Rights Oregon; Founder of BUTCH Voices, and an all-around dapper butch.