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We've Come to a Fork in the Road on Our Way to a Fair & Equal Oregon

Monday, August 15, 2005
Here's Your Chance to Weigh-In On The Next Steps in Our Collective Struggle.

Over the next several weeks, Basic Rights Oregon is embarking on a period of information gathering, evaluation, discussion and strategizing about the next steps in our fight to end discrimination in Oregon based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That process involves political and legal strategists, coalition partners and allies, donors, national partners and...YOU!

Your feedback, thoughts, input and ideas are critical in determining where we go from here and how we get there.

Click here to tell us what YOU think!


This session, the Oregon Legislature failed to end discrimination against GLBT Oregonians and their families -- this, despite the fact that, together, we delivered to the Oregon Legislature the most massive statewide lobbying effort ever on GLBT issues. At BRO we work hard to track every action taken by activists, but we know that hundreds, if not thousands, of you took action after action, day after day in a way that we couldn't track. While that unbelieveable and dedicated effort can't be reflected here, below is a snapshot of some of the scope and scale of what we accomplished: 

Number of letters written to legislators tracked by BRO staff: 40,726

Minimum number of phone calls made to legislators: 11,053

Hours of testimony presented to legislative committees on civil unions, antidiscrimination and reciprocal benefits: 20

Oregonians who attended legislative hearings in Salem in support of civil unions and anti-discrimination: 477.

Additional number who provided written testimony in support of the legislation: 410

Total number of Oregonians who rallied at least once on the steps of the Capitol: 1,800.

Number of cities represented at July 20th Rally on Capitol Steps: 67

Number of consecutive days activists gathered outside Capitol parking garage to urge legislators to pass SB 1000: 34

Percentage of Oregon legislative districts represented in pro-SB1000 lobbying effort: 100%.

Number of cities and towns from which activists lobbied in support of SB 1000: 155

Pieces of educational literature delivered to legislators in support of SB 1000: more than 7,600

Number of active volunteers who contributed to the legislative campaign: 4600

Number of hours spent by phone-bank volunteers calling activists and supporters across Oregon to generate, email and phone calls to legislators: 1100

Longest distance traveled to meet for 15 minutes with legislator: 271.7 miles.

Number of votes changed by the visit: 1

Ratio of letters-to-the-editor published in support and opposition of SB 1000: 2:1

Number of newspaper editorials written in support of civil unions and antidiscrimination: 37.

Number in opposition: 4

Percentage of State's major newspapers that supported the bill: 100%

Number of letters delivered to legislators featuring the "Pictures and Priorities" of Oregonians statewide: 1000

Number of Oregonians who delivered a "While You Were Out" message to Speaker Minnis: 700

Number of "Support SB 1000" t-shirts distributed to activists around the state: 500

Number of SB 1000 t-shirts currently for sale on E-Bay: 1

Oregon Legislature Fails to End Discrimination

Friday, August 05, 2005
Today the gavel fell ending the 2005 legislative session and we are faced with the harsh reality that the Oregon legislature did not meet its moral obligation to protect all of our State's families and make discrimination a thing of the past.

This is an outrage, pure and simple. Today, despite all of our work, all of our testimony, all of the heart and soul that we poured into the democratic process, all of the support that we garnered in both legislative chambers and -- in the end -- Karen Minnis, Speaker of the House, single handedly executed a series of mean-spirited political tricks that blocked civil unions and anti-discrimination legislation from becoming the law.

Your courage, commitment and unrelenting resolve to pass this bill did not go unnoticed. SB1000, a bill with bipartisan sponsors, passed the Senate 19-10, winning by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. We had the votes in the House to pass the bill, again with bipartisan support. Legislators heard more about SB 1000 than any other bill this session. Thousands of people contacted their representatives, and did so repeatedly. We have never had such a strong presence in Salem, and it was heard, for months and months.

But, in the end, one person stood between our state doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing, and that person, Speaker Minnis, abused her power to make sure that the wrong thing was done.

Using a complicated set of procedural maneuvers that came to be called the "Midday Massacre" of SB1000, Minnis stopped justice right in its tracks. She again thwarted democracy only a few days later by throwing out a 140 year old rule that allows legislators to extract a bill from committee and bring it to an up or down vote. She resorted to these extreme measures because she knew that YOU had built the support for this bill and if it came to a vote it would pass. Knowing that we had the support and still the bill did not pass is nothing less than frustrating, infuriating, and unfair.

Some have already said to us, "Well, what did you expect?" as though somehow we shouldn't have decided to fight if we didn't know ahead of time that we would win.

So let me just say it now, loud and clear: we expected justice, we expected fairness, and we expected equality. We still expect those things, and we will not stop expecting them, ever.

We also expected a fight, and of course we knew we might not win. "What did you expect?" presumes that if the struggle is tough, it's not worth the trouble. I believe that the opposite is true, that the most valuable things are those that are hard won.

Given how high the stakes are, it's not surprising that the fight is a fierce one. But that doesn't make this bitter pill any easier to swallow. We are now faced with the reality that this fight will be tough and long, but we will not give up no matter what.

As we move forward we will look at where we have been and what we have learned and we are just beginning an important evaluation process of this legislative campaign that includes your critical feedback and input about what we have done and where to go from here. Look for much more about that over the next month. Here, though, are two things that we've learned that I think are worth sharing:

First, it's never been clearer to me how important it is that we are involved in electoral politics. We need to build into a mighty force the BRO Equality PAC, which seeks to elect openly GLBT and pro-BRO candidates for key legislative races. We need to be not only a force for the positive, rewarding and reelecting our allies, but we need to become a force that will hold politicians who vote against us accountable for their actions. With your help, we can make Karen Minnis regret her actions in 2006!

And second, I've learned that when we lift up our voices, people do hear us. The outcome of this legislative session is utterly maddening. It is a terrible blow.

But I can't think about this experience without thinking of the more than 700 "While You Were Out" messages we delivered to Karen Minnis, or the thousands and thousands and thousands of emails and phone calls that poured into the legislature every time we sent out an alert, or the intrepid band of Salemites that stood outside the legislators' parking garage every morning for a month -- a month!!! -- holding signs and asking legislators to vote on our bill. . .not to mention the hundreds of people from every corner of this state, who waited for as long as seven hours and stood up at the hearings and testified so honestly about their lives, their words sandwiched between hideous lies and expressions of bigotry offered up by the other side.

I have so many of these scenes in my head. I know many of you do, too. We have represented ourselves well, and truthfully, and with determination.

Shame on Karen Minnis for her abuse of public trust, and for misusing our democratic process to uphold discrimination in our state.

With this defeat, we will become even more resolute. A friend of mine sent me a quote from Winston Churchill that says: "If you're going through hell, keep going." I love that! We have seen how close we can get, and it's clear that we will eventually win the equality we deserve.

But for now, it's important to acknowledge the pain of this loss, deal with it, and turn it into determination and passion, so that we can fight another day until we celebrate full equality.

In Solidarity,
Roey Thorpe


Tuesday, August 02, 2005
In a second Mid-Day Massacre on fairness for all Oregonians, Speaker of the House Karen Minnis rewrote the rules of Democracy in Oregon, cementing her supreme rule over the Oregon House of Representatives and blocking a potential House vote on civil unions and anti-discrimination legislation.

What she did was strike down a 140-year old rule called a “withdrawal motion.” This rule is part of the checks and balances of power that are supposed to prevent one person from having absolute power over the House of Representatives, by allowing a majority of members to extract a bill from committee and bring it to the House floor for an up or down vote, even if the speaker doesn’t agree or the committee hasn’t approved the bill. She did that explicitly because she was afraid the House would do that with our new civil union/antidiscrimination bill—HB 3508--against her wishes.  Now she, and only she, has the power to decide what comes out of committee to the floor for a vote.  It’s a complete abuse of power, anti-democratic, and all Oregonians should be worried about the fact that one person has that much power in her hands.

This move comes just one day before the Speaker is required to assign HB 3508, the newest effort at enacting civil unions and antidiscrimination laws, to a House Committee. Once in committee, under the standard House rules, legislators could have --by majority vote -- extracted the bill from committee (bypassing the need for committee approval or the approval of the Speaker) and allow an up or down vote on the bill on the House floor.

As a result of the Speaker's outrageous move, such options are banned for the remainder of the legislative session. The rule of the Speaker now outweighs even a majority of lawmakers.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle decried the maneuver as an abuse of power:

"This move flies in the face of the will of the majority and standard parlimentary rule," said Representative Steve March (D-Portland). "This is a tyranny move and I oppose such a move. It is not appropriate to do this."

"I want to note my concern about this rule change. I am very sorry that it had to come to this," Representative Billy Dalto (R-Salem)

Represenative Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland): "This is an absolute outrage and a pure affront to the rule of the majority and the minority. As it stands now, the leadership of the House has absolute ability to stop any bill or any vote from happening."

The rewriting of the rules is a done deal, but don't let this brazen disregard for democratic principles go unnoticed!

First, tell your lawmakers to take a stand against Minnis's political ploys! Click here to find your legislator and call now!

Next, send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. For letter-writing tips and contact information for your local paper, click here!