July 20, 2007

"Gay Rights Promote Fairness For All"

The following op-ed piece was published in the Salem, Oregon StatesmanJournal. The writer, Gloria Holland, is a straight woman who is an activist in the state, which is one of the more GLBT friendly ones in the nation. Like the parents in Michigan I wrote about yesterday, she has had first-hand experience in dealing with GLBT issues since her daughter came out to her as a lesbian.

Gay Rights Promote Fairness For All

About 10 years ago, I was presented with an opportunity to learn a great deal about a segment of our society about which I was very ill informed.

During my life and career as an educator, I had known many gay and lesbian friends and colleagues. Yet, it wasn't until my daughter was brave enough to tell me that she might become involved with a woman that I began to educate myself around the specific issues faced by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens of our state.

I learned that gays were discriminated against in housing, health care, jobs, hospital emergencies, retirement benefits and much more.

I learned that same-sex couples who have been in committed relationships as long as my husband and I, who raised children together and worshipped together, were forced to lead secret, closeted existences out of fear and were often left to fend for themselves with no legal rights during life's hardest times.

I learned that gay kids are far more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be injured with a weapon, drop out of school or commit suicide.

I also learned that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people wish only to care for their own loved ones, not to undermine my or anyone else's ability to do the same. The people I have come to know during the past 10 years simply want to live, as I do, in an Oregon that is free from discrimination, values equality and moves forward toward fairness for all our families.

Fortunately, our Legislature recently passed two new laws that bring Oregon one step closer to fair and equal rights for all, and many of our families one step closer to real security.

Our new Domestic Partnership law recognizes families as families. This legal recognition is an important tool, one from which many families have been shut out, to better cope during emergencies and better protect and care for loved ones.

Oregon's second new law ends discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations. Such language has existed in Oregon law for many years to protect our citizens on the basis of race, gender, creed and age. This new language simply adds to existing law assurance that Oregonians won't be fired, evicted or denied service at a restaurant or hotel just because of their sexual orientation.

Sadly, a divisive effort has already begun to force these laws to ballot, certainly to be followed by an aggressive campaign to overturn them. I absolutely will not be signing these petitions, and invite others to join me.

As a community, we all suffer when one group of people is set apart and shut out from basic human rights. It's past time to end our culture of divisiveness and work toward a fairer Oregon. I urge you to look past the political arguments and see how personal these laws are for so many families, just like yours or mine.

It's a lot harder to discriminate against a group when you put live faces on the issues and remember that these are flesh and blood people just like everyone else.

1 comment:

  1. The title says it all. I appreciate the article you posted, being the mother of a gay daughter. Thank you.