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An Open Letter to the GLBT From Governor Ted Kulongoski

Dear Friends:

I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Basic Rights Equality PAC and the Human Rights Campaign in the race for Oregon's Governor and am proud to be a partner with Basic Rights Oregon and HRC in this important struggle for equality in our state. For more than thirty years in public service, I have stood in solidarity with the GLBT community in Oregon and I pledge to continue to use my power as Governor to make equality the law of the land here in Oregon.

I am committed to full legal equality and protection from discrimination for all of our citizens. Discrimination or unfair treatment of any type relegates us to something less than our best and I am deeply concerned that current Oregon law fails to provide this basic right of protection against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Oregonians.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not only morally wrong, but it is shortsighted and legally unsustainable. I first became active on this issue in the 1970s when as a State Legislator I introduced the first anti-discrimination legislation to the Oregon Legislature.

As Oregon’s Attorney General, I filed an amicus brief on Oregon's behalf urging that Colorado's Amendment Two, which withdrew all legal protection (including that of antidiscrimination laws for employment and public accommodation) for Colorado citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation, was unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court struck down Colorado's amendment, and Oregon's brief was credited with playing a key role in the Court's decision.

As Governor I have made sure that my office door is always open to the GLBT community, appointing a staff dedicated to GLBT policy issues and introducing a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill during the 2003 legislative session. Then in the 2005 session, I partnered in a bipartisan effort to introduce Senate Bill 1000. Working together, we succeeded in passing this historic antidiscrimination and civil unions bill in the Senate, but were stymied by the opposition of the Republican-led House, where Senate Bill 1000 wasn’t even allowed a debate or vote on the House floor.

The bill may have died last session, but my commitment to outlaw discrimination in all forms in Oregon has not. I am as committed – if not more – as I was thirty years ago to see that Oregon is a state that does more than give lip service to its core values. Next session, I will work to see that antidiscrimination and civil unions legislation receive a vote on the floor of both legislative chambers – and that the State Legislature does not recess until every legislator has cast a vote on this important issue.

But we can’t wait for the legislative session to continue the work necessary to achieve true equality. This year I created the Governor's Taskforce on Equality in Oregon through Executive Order to review state statutes and develop a list of recommendations for changes necessary in state law to ensure Oregon affords the same privileges, protections and responsibilities to all Oregonians regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. I have asked for the Taskforce to develop a report, which will include comment from public hearings statewide, so I can introduce necessary changes to state law in the 2007 session.

Aside from legislation, there are some changes that need to be made in the rules that govern how state agencies do business to ensure that the state is doing everything it can to ensure equal treatment of Oregonians. For those, I have directed state agencies to work with the Oregon Department of Justice to identify the rules that can be amended within existing statutory authority so we can afford the same rights, privileges and protections to all Oregonians. My office is working closely with Basic Rights Oregon on this effort, and I expect agencies to begin the process of amending rules this year.

Discrimination is not an Oregon value. Oregonians do not believe in their hearts that some citizens should be treated as second-class. We are Oregonians first and we all benefit when we respect and support one another’s right to live to our full potential. We are a better state when all of our citizens are afforded the same rights, protections and opportunities. That’s why I opposed Measure 36 and advocated for SB1000 and why I am committed to breaking the barriers that are keeping some of our citizens from enjoying the protections and freedoms of which they are entitled.

I hold these truths deep in my heart and I will not rest until Oregon is a place where all people are equal under the law and free to live their lives without government intrusion, hindrance or indifference.

Sincerely,

Governor Theodore Kulongoski
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