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VIDEO: Defending Basic Human Rights

In May on 2007 the Oregon State Legislature passed a domestic partnership law for same sex couples, scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2008. Opponents immediately set about collecting the signatures necessary to put this law to a vote of the people.
When this referendum failed to gather the necessary signatures, the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Arizona brought suit before a Federal Judge, complaining that state and county elections officials wrongly disqualified their signatures on these petitions seeking to force a statewide election on the law November 4.

Judge Michael Mosman first ordered a 32 day stay on the law and heard the case on February 2, 2008, ruling that the State could begin to register same sex couples who choose to enter into domestic partnership as early as the following Monday.

Prior to the court hearing, On January 30, over 2000 people rallied in Portland Oregon at Terry Schrunk Plaza to voice their outrage at the machinations of this out of state organization and pledge their support to defend these basic rights for all Oregon citizens.
Speakers from the Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Community spoke eloquently and forcefully that the right to choose ones partner is a basic human right and that same sex couples are no different from any other family in this need. All Oregon families should have access to both the rights and the responsibilities that legal recognition of a relationship brings. Legal recognition for families keeps children safe in the event of a crisis, brings financial and emotional security, and strengthens our total community as a whole.

This is a one hour video of the event, including contact information for the various groups involved and ways in which viewers may assist in this struggle.
VIDEO: Defending Basic Human Rights

The event was enthusiastically moderated by Becky Flynn, Eugene Regional Director for Basic Rights Oregon and Kendall Clawson, Executive Director of Portland Q Center.

First to speak was Erin Sexton Saylor, appearing on stage with her wife Melissa and their two year old daughter Vivian. She stated that when the domestic partnership law passed, "we were really excited because it was one less thing we had to worry about. And now we're back in a place of not knowing, not knowing that when this little girl is born if she going to have two parents or just one, not knowing she going to have to wait for a second parent adoption to come th rough to know that our family is safe."
"Our family and hundreds of other committed couples in Oregon really deserve to take care of each other. That is what domestic partnerships is all about."

Next to the microphone were Keith and Antoinette Edwards, proud parents of a gay son. Keith exclaimed how everyone present had many important things that they "could be doing and that there was nothing better that they could be doing than make sure everyone has their basic rights. This is an issue that is close to home for us because we have a son who is gay; not gay by choice but he was born that way. We love him and feel that he should have the same rights as anyone else in this country."
Antoinette follows her husband and gets right to the point: "my gay son is a gift from God! She finishes with a quote from a Rabbi: "Simply put, there is no one religious view on these issues. From my point of view, each day that our states laws permits discrimination against lesbians and gays, it is an afront to God. It is time to stop standing in the way of the holiness of equality and equity."

Union solidarity was represented in the person of Barbara Byrd, Secretary-Treasurer of Oregon AFL-CIO, who was proud that her union has "fought hard for domestic partnership benefits on their contracts, for anti discrimination clauses that would prevent discrimination because of their gender identity and sexual orientation.......We're behind you in this fight; we want to keep out of state, right wing, anti gay interests. We will stand with you. You're not alone in this struggle, organized labor is behind you."

The first of two Ministers was next to speak, Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Universalist Unitarian Minister. He begins strong, saying that "a child will be born today that will thank you for your activism. That child will be Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native, mixed-race, gay or straight, rich or poor, that child will matter."
Domestic Partnerships provide basic rights, human rights, and the ability for families to protect themselves. We are doing God's work when we are building a path to social equality.
The Reverend spoke eloquently of the connection between human society and God's law. "History tells us that Hate follows the ideologies and theologies of discrimination. When this happens to our neighbor, we are all affected." According to Rev. Santos-Lyons, the solution to the problem is Community, building better relationships, with both those within this movement and those outside it, and that all struggles are linked.
"Overcoming racism is linked to overcoming heterosexism and sexism. May our stronger friendships breed trust, loyalty, compassion, and yes, forgiveness among us."

The second testimony of committed couples came from Yolando Lozano and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Speaking for the couple, a committed couple for 14 years, Lozano said that she was proud to represent the gray haired, Hispanic, rural lesbian members of our community."
Having had a couple careers, both in government and in business, she "can't tell you how many times I've been quietly and subtly discriminated against, whether passed over for promotions or not given a raise when earned, or even once having my job deleted from the budget."
"This law will have a tremendous impact on our health care decisions, retirement benefits and family law issues as we continue to age."
Lozano thanked the people of Oregon and the fair minded legislators who went "as far as a state can go to insure that our families are treated equally."

Alisa Simmons, Executive Director of Brother to Brother; was introduced next. Alisa stated that, "we really are in a monumental moment in history. Today we stand together as we approach the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement of the 21st century. As black, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, and allies of diverse backgrounds, these days seem all to familiar to the struggles fought by pioneers of Equality that came before us."

Jeanne Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, the main organizer for the Rally, spoke to the long struggle against sexual discrimination. "For more than 30 years we've been out here in the rain, we've been standing in the rain, all of us who believe in fairness and justice for our families. We've been standing in this rain of heartless intolerance for far too long."........When the Legislature passed our laws this past year, they stood on the right side of history."

To loud and prolonged applause, former Governor Barbara Roberts was next on stage. "Today we are here, hundreds of us, to make three very strong public statements. One, we believe in the legal and Human rights of every Oregonian, including our gay and lesbian friends and family." "Two. We will not be silent while out of state fundamentalist fanatics like the Alliance Defense Fund attempt to use the Federal Court system to interfere with Oregon's Constitution and our State laws." "Three. We expect this nations Federal Courts to respect and protects the state's rights of all 50 states to control the election, voting and initiative systems of their own st ate."

At this point the Portland Gay Men's Choir sang two songs, before the speakers continued.

Speaking for students, Tosh Shatz, PSU student leader and equal rights advocate acknowledged the many shoulders that the current struggle stood upon: labor rights, civil rights, women's rights, queer rights and Human rights . "I can feel the movement that we are a part of, and it's a greater movement for social justice."
"We must come together in all of our beautiful colors and fight against oppression in every form."

Speaking to the need for all cultures to work together, the next speaker was Kaysee Jama, Executive Director of theCenter for Intercultural Organizing.
"Let us find the right way and create a society that does not tell people that you are not equal, but one that guarantees every child their basic human rights that God gives."

State Representative, Rep. Tina Kotek . Tina says that her and her partner of three years don't want to go somewhere else to be recognized. "We want to be recognized in our own state of Oregon, the state we work hard every day to make a better place. We are going to wait to have our celebration because we deserve, we demand our recognition in Oregon."
Tina thanked those in elected office and those running for office who support basic human rights and then addressed what people must do to bring the struggle to a successful conclusion, down the road, past the upcoming ruling and beyond, to another possible ballot measure fight.

Rev. Tair Wilkins, Community of Welcoming Congregations referred to the fact that "religious and congregational leaders around the state, across traditions, are standing in solidarity with us to say that we are not going anywhere. We are here to stand on the side of Love and Justice s long as it takes. We will keep working to support our lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters because as a matter of Faith we believe all families deserve equal protection."

During the event, and again just before the event was concluded, speakers indicated that sign up sheets were being circulated providing the gathering an opportunity to participate in the upcoming struggles by volunteering in various capacities.
Those wishing to contribute in any way to this struggle can contact Basic Rights Oregon

Though the decision announced on the Friday after this Rally did go their way, the battle is not over as the Alliance Defense Fund will surely appeal, and certainly attempt another signature gathering referendum.

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