Columns

OutLoud: Rally, I Do

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Sally and a band of allies fight for their rights.

One two three four, we won’t take it anymore! Five six seven eight, the state should not discriminate!

Hundreds of us pro-equality demonstrators rallied on our Capitol steps last month to call for what now seems the very likely passage of—at long freaking last—nondiscrimination and domestic partnership laws. We weren’t exactly your angry torch-and-pitchfork mob. Still, our rainbow gathering of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people and fabulous allies made our presence known.

We had driven to Salem in the pouring rain from Eugene, Springfield, Bend, Ashland, The Dalles, and every corner of our unfortunately square state of Oregon. Queer people young and old and a huge showing of our families and friends came to protest unfair treatment under the law.

Dig it. Here it is the 21st century, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is still perfectly legal—in the Beaver State, no less. You can be denied a job, evicted from an apartment, or kicked out of a restaurant just for being queer—or because some boss/landlord/manager thinks you “look queer.” Does that suck, or what?

Legal protections are automatically bestowed upon the legally married but, since the 2005 passage of Oregon’s One-Man/One-Woman amendment, legal marriage is constitutionally prohibited to same-sex couples. Can someone say Catch 22?

We’ve been living under this social apartheid system all these years. People are hip to the unfairness of this setup and they are speaking up. Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Homophobia’s got to go!

The rally was incredible. Our festive, equal-rights side way overshadowed the God Hates Fags bunch. PFLAG fed us all sack lunches and hugged whoever looked like they needed it. Organizers for all kinds of queer and democratic groups swarmed around, and folks were more than willing to sign up for whatever.

I’ve been to a jillion of these things. Even though I still get a boost from seeing hundreds of LGBTQ friends and allies out in force, I take it somewhat in stride. I’m used to visiting legislators, marching down Main Street, waving my rainbow flag for freedom. I forget that for a lot of these folks it’s their first time standing up for what they believe, the first time they’ve felt the thrill of speaking out amid a throng of support. People were stoked.

During a sign-from-God break in the rain, our governor stepped up to the podium and the crowd broke into a huge ovation. “This is the pen I use to sign bills into law,” Governor Kulongoski said over the din. He waved his PaperMate at the cheering masses. “I’m ready to sign!”

Lots of yelling, sign waving, and, no doubt, a fair amount of cruising ensued. TV cameras and flash-snapping journalists went wild. Now we’re on the verge of taking the governor up on his offer, and by the time you read this column, he’s probably already signed the bills into law. We just need our legislators to support basic fairness for all Oregonians. They know it’s time. They’d better not make us get out the torches and pitchforks.

Sally Sheklow received both first- and second-place honors in the magazine column category in the 2005 Houston Press Club Lone Star Awards.

UPDATE

Victory On May 6, Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski signed legislation, effective January 1, creating domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian residents. Kulongoski also signed a bill that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in Oregon.

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