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Roey on the Road: Activism in Salem, Florence and Washington County

Salem
Saturday we began our weekend trip with a stop in Salem. Despite the holiday shopping season, 8 different organizations turned out with tables and volunteers for the event! Oregon Peace Works, Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition, PFLAG, the Salem Human Rights Commission and many others were present. Representative Vicki Berger also showed up, and reiterated her support for basic equality and SB1000. Rep. Berger was one of the few Republicans in the House who spoke publicly about her support for SB 1000, but she assured us that there were several others who would have voted to pass our bill had it come to the floor of the House. I admire her courageous stand and her commitment to fairness.

All of us had a chance to meet Brian Clem, who is running for State Representative in HD 21, hoping to unseat Billy Dalto (R-Salem). Brian spoke in very real and moving terms about the evolution of his understanding of GLBT issues and about his personal stand when on the student government in college. He got a lot of applause and picked up some campaign volunteers—I found him to be thoughtful and candid, which can be a rare combination in our legislature!

Florence
After Salem, I headed to Florence, where I went to a holiday party at the home of Jennifer and Sally. They are fantastic hosts, and I had the chance to meet people from Florence’s thriving arts community (Jennifer started a cooperative gallery in downtown Florence that is fantastic, called the Backstreet Gallery). On Sunday night, I spoke at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Florence, to a group of 30 wonderful people who were there for their weekly service. I talked about what discrimination against GLBT people looks like in Oregon and why it’s important to pass a statewide civil rights bill. During a conversation following my remarks, congregants proposed becoming a "welcoming congregation," and also discussed whether they could pass a city ordinance that bans discrimination. They also discussed whether GLBT people felt safe in Florence, and some people talked about how hard it is to be open about being queer. Of the 30 people present, at least 5 told me, either publicly or in private, about their gay children and grandchildren. This was a tremendously intelligent, sensitive group of people, and they are wonderful allies of BRO and the GLBT communities. I hope that this group of people will step up and take a public stand for equality in Florence, because to do so would mean so much to so many people.

Washington County
Monday night BRO Staff Headed to Beaverton, where the Washington County Basic Rights Action Team hosted a town hall at Southminster Presbyterian Church. This team is so great-they worked to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance in Beaverton and are considering one for Hillsboro. They also did a tremendous amount of work on the No on 36 campaign and are champion canvassers and speakers. On Monday people turned out from PFLAG, the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition, the Community of Welcoming Congregations, and the Southridge High School GSA (that’s the high school that is still trying to put on their production of The Laramie Project, which has encountered resistance from school administrators). And Representative Jeff Barker also joined us, echoing what Representative Berger said in Salem, that there were enough votes in the House to have passed SB1000 if it had come to the floor for a vote. It's clear that this group will go on to great things-and that they will get involved in candidate campaigns as well. In 2006, they will be doing important base-building work to increase our political power in this important area of the state. If you live in Washington County, join them! Email Jessica at Jessica@basicrights.org to find out the details.
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