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Eugene Weekly : Living Out : 3.15.07

Rally, I Do

Chant for equal rights

BY SALLY SHEKLOW

One, two, three, four, we won't take it anymore! Five, six, seven, eight, the state should not discriminate!

Hundreds of pro-equality demonstrators rallied on Oregon's Capitol steps March 7 to call for what now seems the very likely passage of — at long freaking last — nondiscrimination and civil unions laws. Not exactly your angry torch-and-pitchfork mob, but our rainbow gathering of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people and fabulous allies made our presence known.

We'd driven to Salem in the pouring rain from Eugene, Springfield, Bend, Ashland, The Dalles and every corner of the state, to attend the Basic Rights Oregon Day of Action. Queer people young and old and a huge showing of our families and friends showed up to protest unfair treatment under the law and to support two new bills up for a vote this session.

SB 2, the Oregon Equality Act, creates a statewide law prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation, public services, and education on the basis of sexual orientation (which in this law includes gender identity and expression).

HB 2007, the Oregon Family Fairness Act, creates legal recognition (civil unions) for same-sex couples and their families.

We need these laws.

Dig it: Here it is the 21st century, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is still perfectly legal — in the Beaver State, no less. That means anyone who doesn't measure up to what's considered "normal" can be denied a job, evicted from an apartment, or kicked out of a restaurant, movie theater, or the mall (true story!) just for being queer — or because some boss/ landlord/ manager THINKS you "look queer."

Under current Oregon law, gay and lesbian couples lack critical protections, including the rights to:

• take bereavement or sick leave to care for each other

• choose a final resting place when one dies

• wrongful death benefits for the surviving partner

• transfer property and assets from partner to partner

• obtain joint health, home, and auto insurance policies

• enter joint rental agreements (if we can get someone to rent to us!)

• file joint state tax returns.

And, unlike straight couples, we have no legal right to equitable division of property when we divorce. Does that suck or what?

These protections are automatically bestowed upon the legally married and, since the passage of Measure 36, legal marriage is constitutionally prohibited to same-sex couples. Can someone say catch-22?

And what about protecting our families? Lesbian moms and gay dads don't have the right to:

• take leave to care for a partner's child

• obtain joint child custody, visitation, adoption, or foster care, or

• be recognized as a valid parent of a partner's kid.

DUDE! It's not good.

We've been living under this social apartheid system all these years. Now everybody say, One two three four, we won't take it anymore!

During a sign-from-God break in the rain, Gov. Kulongoski stepped up to the podium, and the crowd broke into a huge ovation. "This is the pen I use to sign bills into law," the gov said over the din. He waved his PaperMate at the cheering throng. "I'm ready to sign!"

Let's take the governor up on his offer. Legislators who support basic fairness for all Oregonians are on our side. They know it's time. Now they want to hear from you. Call, write, email, and visit your senator and representatives and tell them you support House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2.

Don't make us get out the torches and pitchforks.

Sally Sheklow won the 2006-2007 Best of Eugene award for "Best Local Writer."