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Making a place for gays and lesbians

Oregon legislators should approve anti-discrimination legislation as well as civil unions for gay couples

Some day we'll look back with a shudder at society's treatment of gays and lesbians. Although there's too little evidence now to say for certain what causes homosexuality, some day scientists surely will confirm what parents with gay sons and lesbian daughters already know:

Their children no more chose to be homosexual than other people's children choose to be heterosexual. At some point, often after years of struggle and denial, therapy, fervent prayers and desperate wishes to be otherwise, people realize they are who they are.

Last November, voters amended the Oregon Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying as other couples do. One of the messages this vote sent to gays and lesbians was not subtle: You don't belong. You're not really part of us.

For political purposes, of course, maybe it's handy to have one group of people to demonize. In 2004, sadly, gays and lesbians became that convenient "them." And this year, some legislators are still exploiting that political divide. But the good news is that Gov. Ted Kulongoski and a bipartisan coalition of legislators are working to heal it.

Very soon, the Oregon Senate will vote on Senate Bill 1073, to create Vermont-style civil unions for gays and lesbians. If the Oregon Legislature approves this bill, and also outlaws discrimination against gays, it will be a proud moment for our state.

It will be a victory, not just for gays and lesbians, but for legislators themselves. If they pass this legislation, they will have accomplished something monumental. Most of all, the passage will be a victory for Oregonians who unequivocally cherish fair treatment of their neighbors, sons and daughters who are gay.

Some day we will understand more about the genesis of homosexuality, why some version of it shows up across so many cultures and even in different animal species. Some day we will know that being gay is not a "lifestyle choice" - as so many say who condemn gays, their voices dripping with contempt. We will understand that sexual orientation is something so deep that it cannot be wished, hoped, prayed, married or chosen away.

That's why it's just as wrong to discriminate against gays and lesbians as it is to discriminate against people of different colors or different faiths.

For now, we only glimpse this truth, but some day we will see it face to face.

If legislators approve this legislation, we'll be able to say that, way back in 2005, Oregonians had already figured out what fairness means. Our state already knew that gays and lesbians deserved to be treated equally, as full Oregonians and full human beings.

Not one of "them."

One of us.

OregonLive.com
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