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BREAKING: Wasco County Court Unanimously Votes For Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wasco County Court Unanimously Approves Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Wasco County answers moral call to treat all it's residents with fairness and dignity--barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

(Portland, Oregon) Today the Wasco County Court voted unanimously to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In doing so, Wasco County becomes the 13th Oregon community to ban discrimination in employment practices, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Today is a proud day for Wasco County,” said Brian Stahl, a resident of The Dalles who was active in the effort to pass the ordinance. “We believe every resident should be given equal opportunity to live, work and thrive, without fearing the sting of discrimination.”

Stahl credits the Court’s unanimous vote to the diverse backing the ordinance received from the community. Those supporting the measure include local PFLAG members (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Wasco County citizens for Human Dignity, and a large cross-section of faith, community leaders and business leaders – including The Dalles Chamber of Commerce Board, who wrote a letter to the Court endorsing the ordinance.

The Oregon Legislature recently passed a statewide anti-discrimination law. However, the future of that statewide law is still uncertain. Opposition groups are collecting signatures in an attempt to overturn it, as well as Oregon’s new law creating family security through Domestic Partnerships for same-gender couples. Should enough signatures be collected, implementation of both statewide laws would be put on hold until after the November, 2008 Election.

“It’s a shame that some still want to divide Oregonians rather than uniting us. But today’s victory in Wasco County proves that we truly are one Oregon. Whether we live in an urban or rural area, Wasco County or Washington County, we share the common value of fairness,” said John Hummel, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon.

He continued, “Basic Rights Oregon applauds the Wasco County Court for their bold move toward equality for all, and the good people of Wasco County who worked so hard to educate others about the need to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Linda Stahl, who together with her husband Brian is featured in a new statewide project called 50 Voices for Equality at www.50VoicesForEquality.com, summed up the local reaction to the ordinance’s passage: “The people who live here, raise families here, and go to church here simply want our community’s laws to reflect our value of fairness for all.”


Basic Rights Education Fund Launches Statewide Public Education Campaign: 50 Voices for Equality

From Faith Leaders and Elected Officials to Parents and Business Leaders, Fifty Straight Oregonians Speak Out About Fairness for Gays and Lesbians

(Portland, Oregon) Today, Basic Rights Education Fund, the 501(c)(3) arm of Basic Rights Oregon, launched a large-scale statewide education campaign, entitled "50 Voices For Equality." The project highlights 50 diverse community leaders from across the state, showcasing Oregon's broad support for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Oregonians and their families. Participants in the project are particularly passionate about protecting Oregon's two new basic fairness laws, which create Domestic Partnerships for same-sex couples and banning discrimination in employment, housing public accommodation and other areas.

These 50 heterosexual Oregonians believe that fairness is a basic Oregon value. They believe that our new laws, ending discrimination against both individuals and families based on sexual orientation and gender identity, have made Oregon a fairer place to live and work.

"The 50 Voices for Equality represent the broad cross-section of Oregonians who believe that every Oregon family should be able to realize their hopes and dreams, keep loved ones safe and secure, and live and work free from the sting of discrimination," said John Hummel, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. "The goal of this campaign is to help Oregonians understand that fairness affects us all. That's why it is critical we stand together and speak out. If our new laws were to be overturned, many families would be shut out from the ability to best care for those they love. That's just not the Oregon way."

The Fifty Voices for Equality website at www.50VoicesForEquality.com features biographies and statements of support for fairness in Oregon, as well as photos of the 50 Voices. Each of the Voices will engage in educational activities in their communities throughout 2007 and 2008. The campaign will include other educational components, to be launched in the coming months in combination with other campaigns.

The voices come from diverse perspectives, and include leading businesspeople, parents and grandparents, faith leaders, elected officials, community activists and public safety officers. Voices are geographically diverse as well, hailing from Bend, Philomath, Otis, Woodburn, Portland, Eugene, Baker City, Salem, Warm Springs, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Lincoln City, Ashland, Corvallis, Troutdale, Lake Oswego, The Dalles, Coos Bay, and Keizer.

Rabbi Maurice Harris of Eugene explains, "The world around us is in such an uncertain, unstable state and there is a huge amount of social anxiety. In times like these people hang on tightly to what they find comfortable and familiar." He continued, "I wish I could find the right words to help the people in our society who feel frightened by equality to stop feeling frightened and see that they have nothing to worry about. If we can find a way to speak gently to those fears, maybe we can find a way to change their minds. This is why I am proud to be a part of the 50 Voices for Equality Campaign."

Keith and Antoinette Edwards were inspired to join the 50 Voices project in order to promote equality for Oregonians like their adult gay son. "Our son is treated differently by two birthrights of which he had no choosing, being Black and being gay. Above all, equality reminds us of our common humanity," says Antoinette. Keith adds, "It means to be respected and treated as an equal - and to treat people with that same respect."

To view a short promotional video about the 50 voices For Equality campaign, please click here.