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How Campaigning For Candidates Will Change The Face of Oregon & Achieve Lasting GLBT Equality

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A little more than one month remains before the May primary elections, in which Oregonians will cast the first votes in a critical election season for the future of GLBT equality in Oregon.

Exactly what's at stake?

The elections of 2006 will determine whether anti-discrimination and civil union laws pass in the 2007 legislature or whether Oregon will have to wait another two years for any measure of equality. Just as important, this election will decide whether the Governor in office in 2007 will be inclined to veto pro-equality bills or sign them into law.

What do we have to do?

To achieve our goals, we must elect at least two more fair-minded candidates to the House of Representatives and maintain a favorable Governor. Even though we have the bipartisan votes needed to pass our bills, extremist Republicans who dominate the current legislative leadership have chosen to wield their power to successfully block a vote. Because of this dynamic, the only way to pass our legislation in 2007 is to change the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

What kind of difference can we make?

  • If we can replace 1-2 legislators with fair-minded candidates, we would be able to execute a procedural strategy to override the extremist leadership and force a floor vote on GLBT rights bills.

  • If we can replace 3 legislators with fair-minded candidates, then leadership in the House would be split among Democrats and Republicans, allowing GLBT-supportive leadership on the Democratic side to successfully negotiate a favorable leadership structure with moderate Republicans who support our legislation.

  • If we can replace 4 legislators with fair-minded candidates, then extremist Republicans would no longer control the House of Representatives and a strong supporter of GLBT equality would be Speaker allowing us to guarantee passage of our nondiscrimination and civil unions bills.

  • In addition, in order for these legislative changes to make a difference we need to keep a pro-GLBT rights elected official in the Governor's Office.

    How can you help?

    While we know we can make unprecedented gains in this election cycle, we can ONLY do it with your help. In order to win, our community will need to raise thousands of dollars and build a massive volunteer election team across this state.

    Tired of defensive campaigns? This is your turn to contribute to a pro-active campaign that can really make a difference. We'll need you to give of your time, contribute your hard earned dollars, register to vote and vote in both the primary and general elections, host or attend a house party in your area, educate Oregonians about the issues at the door and on the phone and more.

    Together with Basic Rights Oregon you can become part of a political revolution to reshape Oregon and ensure lasting equality for GLBT Oregonians. Each victory for a fair-minded, pro-GLBT candidate gives our movement a voice in the debate and a vote when it matters.

    Questions or just have something to say? Feel free to leave a comment.

  • ACE UPDATE: What's Happening With PPS & The Anti-Gay Church Proposed Alternative School

    Negotiations continue to take place over Portland Public School District's approval of the ''Academy of Character and Ethics'' (ACE) -- an alternative high school proposed by a Portland church that was one of the primary backers of Ballot Measure 36. This school has been proposed in order to address the very real need for college preparatory education in Northeast Portland, and to address the achievement gap that exists for students from low-income communities and communities of color. Unfortunately, problems with the process and with the relationship with Mt. Olivet Church were pointed out by neighborhood groups and by Basic Rights Oregon.

    School backers continue to pursue a publicly-funded alternative school, but they have -- according to a letter sent from Rev. James Martin to Portland Public School officials -- withdrawn the application to locate the school at Jefferson High School. This move is a response to tremendous pressure from neighborhood and parent groups, which was bolstered by you.

    While this change represents one grassroots victory, the concerns about separation of church and state and safety and equality for GLBT students, administrators and parents remain.

    Basic Rights Oregon again met with ACE school officials and E3 funders last week. During that meeting we submitted to school officials a memo outlining our concerns with the school's proposed curriculum, recommended changes for the school to make before continuing forward and highlighted additional areas to watch. As a result of this meeting, we will also submit to school officials a list of potential board members who we can be assured will look out for the safety and welfare of all students, parents and administrators.

    Your continued pressure on Portland Public Schools has ensured that this issue remains a high priority for all parties involved.

    This school is not a done deal. But Portland Public School Board Members, who will be asked to give final approval for the school in the next couple of months, need to hear from you. Use our action alert to send your letter to Portland Public School officials. Tell school board members that ACE should not receive school board approval unless, at a minimum, the following actions have been taken:

    · Rev. James Martin must resign from the ACE board of directors

    · Before ACE opens, the board must be comprised of a majority of non-church members AND include at least one LGBT board member on the new board

    · Allow Basic Rights Oregon on an ongoing basis to review the proposed curriculum and submit recommendations and concerns to school officials, E3 and PPS administrators.

    · PPS/ACE should cease holding school-related meetings at church facilities.

    Discuss.

    Oregon newspaper refuses to print same-sex birth announcements

    Monday, March 20, 2006
    The Register-Guard is refusing to print the names of same-sex parents on birth annoucements, yet they will print the name of the mother and (no joke) the sperm donor. This is a must read.

    From the Daily Emerald:
    The Register-Guard's refusal to run both names of Hailey Flynn's parents in a birth announcement overshadowed one of the happiest moments of Rebecca and Sharon Flynn’s lives, they said.

    "Rebecca was with me the entire way and I've never thought of her as not being an equal parent," Sharon said. "To experience this was painful and our first slap of discrimination that we may face being same-sex parents."

    The Register-Guard's policy is not to include the name of unmarried partners unless they are biological parents, according to a Feb. 22 Register-Guard article.

    Sharon Flynn, 36, gave birth to a baby girl 10 months ago at Sacred Heart Medical Center. A few days after Hailey was born, a hospital official visited Sharon's room to discuss placing a birth announcement in The Register-Guard.

    The official returned an hour later to tell Sharon the paper had a policy against publishing birth announcements from same-sex couples, she said.

    Sharon was so upset she called the paper and eventually reached David Baker, the managing editor, she said.

    The paper was willing to publish an announcement listing Sharon and the name of the sperm donor as Hailey’s parents, but the Flynns declined.

    Sharon and Rebecca, 36, had asked Rebecca’s cousin to donate his sperm so Hailey would have some of Rebecca’s features and family history. He agreed to sign away all parental rights, and Rebecca adopted Hailey.

    Rebecca called Baker several times in the months following Hailey’s birth about the policy and eventually contacted the City of Eugene’s Human Rights Commission, which also wrote The Register-Guard in October requesting a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, the Flynns and officials from the Human Rights Commission, according to a Feb. 3 letter from the Human Rights Commission.

    "(Baker) explained to (Rebecca) that he was researching the birth announcement policies of other independent, family-owned newspapers in order to determine whether or not it was feasible to change the Register-Guard's policy," according to the letter.

    "In that conversation, Mr. Baker also stated that he would move quickly to resolve the matter. According to Ms. Flynn, she left messages on Mr. Baker's voice mail on at least three different occasions over the past three months, requesting an update on the status of the Register-Guard's birth announcement policy," according to the letter. "He has not returned those calls."

    The Register-Guard's policy appeared in an article by Jeff Wright covering a Human Rights Commission meeting.

    "In other business, commission members said Tuesday they remain hopeful of persuading The Register-Guard to revise its policy on the publication of birth notices," according to the article.

    "Earlier Tuesday, Managing Editor Dave Baker said the newspaper plans to stick with its current policy."

    A letter to the editor from the Flynns published March 9 in The Register-Guard stated that the couple worries how the paper will report future events that affect the family.

    "If, God forbid, Hailey dies unexpectedly, would her obituary state that she is survived by Sharon Flynn, her biological mother, and Rebecca Flynn, some random lady who stayed home to raise her?" the letter stated. "Or, as with the newspaper's birth announcement policy, would Rebecca not be mentioned at all?"

    Rebecca said the policy made the couple feel like the family is invisible.

    "We don’t want other parents to get that same slap in the face during the most joyous time of their lives," she said.

    Baker didn’t return phone calls from the Emerald regarding the policy.


    Discuss.

    The Facts on Portland Public Schools' Tax Payer Funded, Anti-Gay Church-Sponsored School

    Friday, March 17, 2006
    Yesterday we told you about plans to open an alternative high school proposed by the anti-GLBT Mount Olivet Baptist Church (one of the primary backers of Ballot Measure 36) on the Jefferson High School Campus in the fall of 2006 with the support of public funds.

    Since then, several of you have contacted us looking for more information. Others have been left confused when told by school administrators that Mt. Olivet is not affiliated with the school. Here are the facts. Judge for yourself.

    • Mt. Olivet first approached Portland Public Schools in 2004 about opening the "Academy of Character and Ethics" as a charter school, with the intent of housing the school in church facilities. At that time, the charter was unanimously denied by the Portland Public School Board because the board did not believe the school was "ready." The Superintendent of Schools directed administrators to keep working with Mt. Olivet.

    • Later, the church, spearheaded by Pastor Martin, formed a 501c3 organization to act as the administrative body of the school and recruited its own board of directors for the school.

    • That organization applied for, and was granted, funding from E3, an alternative school funding organization supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust to encourage alternative education in public schools. On staff at that organization is Paula Kinney, a member of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and the person who has now been selected to act as principal of the new school.

    • In early March, Portland Public Schools gave final approval to the school as an alternative school, ensuring it will also receive public funds and Portland Public Schools encouraged the so-called "Academy of Character and Ethics" to co-locate at Jefferson High School.

    When Basic Rights Oregon met with school administrators Thursday, we hoped our fears would be allayed and that we would be reassured by the facts. Instead, the more we learned, the more alarmed we got. Here's why:

    • While the school district says the school will operate independently of the church,

    Mt. Olivet Baptist Church states clearly on its own website that the school is their project:

    • "During the summer of 2004, our application was approved by Oregon Small Schools Initiative to establish a small public high school. We received a grant and have begun the formal planning and development of the school, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006."

    • We learned from PPS officials that the school's board of directors has been assembled by Mt. Olivet and its leadership

    • We also learned from PPS officials that Paula Kinney, the appointed principal for the so-called "Academy of Character and Ethics" is a member of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

    • Paula Kinney will report solely and directly to the school's board of directors, which is predominately Mt. Olivet members, instead of reporting to PPS or its board of directors.

    • The St. John's Sentinal has reported that the school will be led by Pastor James Martin and Mt. Olivet Baptist church and application materials for the school are available at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. http://www.stjohnssentinel.com/

    • And, when PPS suggested that leaders of the proposed school ought to hear our concerns, the person in charge according to them was none other that Rev. James Martin, the Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

    This school is going to teach courses on "character and ethics". What type of ethics will be taught at a school with leadership whose values include the core value, according to Mt. Olivet's website: "Marriage is the permanent union of one man and one woman"?

    We also want PPS to explain how GLBT parents or GLBT kids can feel assured that members of a known anti-GLBT organization will uphold the school's anti-discrimination policy or foster an academic environment that is safe and supportive for GLBT administrators, parents and students.

    Finally, PPS acts as though this school is a done deal. We have urged them to put this school on hold until these significant concerns, and others related to the approval process itself, are addressed and the many very important questions related to this issue can be answered.

    TELL PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS WHAT YOU THINK!

    Send your letter of concern to:
    Maxine Kilcrease, Assistant Superintendant of Schools
    mkilcrease@pps.k12.or.us

    Portland Public Schools Approve Public Funding For Anti-Gay, Church Sponsored School

    [UPDATE: Make sure to read it. Click here.]

    An alternative high school sponsored by a Portland church that was one of the primary backers of Ballot Measure 36 has received the approval of the Portland Public School Board to in the fall of 2006 with the support of public funds.

    The so-called "Academy of Character and Ethics," or ACE, proposed by Mt. Olivet Baptist Church will open at Jefferson High School in North Portland in 2006 with about 50 students and grow to 200 students, according to the Oregonian .

    Mt. Olivet was a major contributor to the Yes on 36 campaign, donating $15,000 to the 2004 measure that banned same-sex marriage.

    While the school district says the school will operate independently of the church, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church states clearly on its own website that the school is their project, the school's board of directors has been assembled by the church and its principal is a member of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

    Basic Rights Oregon supports religious liberty and the ability of churches to open their own private schools. But we have big concerns about a "values-based" public school led by a known anti-GLBT organization and what appears to be an enormous potential breach of the separation of church and state.

    In response to this news, BRO requested a meeting with district administration this morning and within hours met with school board members, the Assistant Superintendent of Schools and the Director of Alternative Education Options.

    Basic Rights Oregon has urged administrators to investigate our concerns and to put this school on hold until the many very important questions that are arising can be answered. A big thank you to Anne Trudeau and the Northeast Schools Alliance for bringing this to our attention!

    TAKE ACTION NOW!
    Tell Portland Public Schools what YOU think about its approval of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church sponsored alternative school.

    Demand that Portland Public Schools investigate this issue immediately, find out the facts, make a promise to uphold the separation of church and state and ensure that no group that is affiliated with any organization with a history of prejudice gets to use the financial or physical resources of Portland Public Schools open a school.

    Send emails to:
    Maxine Kilcrease, Assistant Superintendant of Schools
    mkilcrease@pps.k12.or.us