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Our Moment to Make Oregon Fair

A letter from Roey Thorpe, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon.

Dear Friends,

Six months ago, when this legislative session began, we set out to do the unprecedented: pass civil unions AND a statewide nondiscrimination law this legislative session.

For a state that has not seen a GLBT civil rights bill even move out of committee in decades, these goals were high and even I feared they might be unreachable.

Now, as the end of session looms and we are feverishly working to pass our bills, everything is on the line.

At this critical moment, I thought I'd just take a quick moment to assess where we've been, where we're at and share what the next few weeks will likely bring.

First, you should know that thanks to all of you and your courageous, passionate activism, this session has already made history.

Never before have our elected representatives heard from so many of us, in so many ways and over such a long time, about our lives and the issues we are asking them to address. Never before.

We started with a Day of Action that had previously brought 80 people to Salem and this year brought over 800.

Every time we send an email alert, hundreds of you call and email your representatives. And that's not counting the letters to the editor, the town halls you've attended, and the rallies and vigils and every other thing you've done to make a difference. So far, more than 18,000 personal contacts have been made directly with our representatives, through phone calls, letters, emails, faxes, and personal visits!

Even our opponents said that we "turn out in droves" at the hearings, and it's true: hundreds of people from every corner of this state have driven for hours to stand up and be counted, and it has mattered.

The numbers themselves are astounding.

But we're about quality as well as quantity, and those of you who have attended the hearings or just listened to them online know that the difference between what we say and our opponents say is more than just the difference between "vote yes" and "vote no."

The more the other side speaks, the more they reveal a world view that is as anti-woman as it is anti-gay, that worships an angry punishing God, that fears so much and seeks to understand so little.

And the more we speak, the more people know about our love of each other and our love for our families and communities, and the more they know how fundamentally wrong it its that tragedies have occurred in the lives of our neighbors and friends because of discrimination and lack of legal recognition. Truly, this is changing minds and hearts, and causing our legislators to look at these issues with new eyes.

Even those who have made the bold committment to sponsor our legislation this session have been profoundly changed by the experience.

Now, as we enter the last few weeks of this legislative campaign, the stakes are high and we can't let up.

There will be plenty of people who will say that this can't be done, that the House will never pass our bills, that we should just give up. Don't believe them.

Keep in mind that no civil rights movement has ever been met with encouragement, or seen as timely, or told that their goals were achievable. It is only after the fact that our vision is viewed as reasonable and people claim to have supported us all along!

We have to keep going, harder than ever, because this is our moment. We owe it to ourselves.

When I look at how far we've come, I'm so proud of all of us and I also have a deep sense of wonder. Many people would have lost the campaign last November and given up, or regretted ever trying. But our community didn't do that. We just kept going, and held our heads even higher. Our opponents weren't counting on that!

In the next week, the civil unions bill will pass the full Senate and move to the House for a vote. We are also optimistic that a nondiscrimination bill will soon pass the Senate as well.

These weeks will be like the rest of the session: there will be moments when everything is going as we imagined -- and times when will wish events were moving more quickly or in a different direction.

We'll stay flexible and ready to change course quickly when needed. We'll keep using a multi-pronged strategy to employ every possible means to secure support for our bills and to keep you informed and in touch with your legislators.

So hold on tight for the proverbial bumpy ride! I hope you'll continue to contact us with your questions, great ideas, and feedback.

Our fantastic statewide team will be holding phone banks in 4 locations around the state, and all you have to do is give them a call to get involved.

These remaining weeks of the session will be a challenge. But, together we are up for it.

Opponents of fairness for GLBT Oregonians will throw everything they have at us. But we will give as good as we get.

We can win this thing and pass our bills if we keep the pressure up, so let's keep our focus and really push for these next crucial weeks.

Again, thank you for fighting along side us through thick and thin. Together, I believe we can, and will, win.

In Solidarity,
Roey Thorpe
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