SALEM — Governor Kate Brown today signed Executive Order 19-08, ensuring equal treatment under the law for Oregon’s LGBTQ+ community.
It’s an update to an executive order signed in 1987 — groundbreaking at the time — that barred state agencies from discriminating against members of Oregon’s gay and lesbian communities.
“The long-standing executive order needed to be updated to reflect current law and understandings about sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Governor Kate Brown. “There are more sexual orientations than just gay and lesbian. And there are more than two gender identities. Recognizing everyone is one step closer to a more inclusive and welcoming Oregon.”
Recognition matters, and this executive order will hopefully pave the way for future generations.
“I grew up at a time when the word transgender didn’t really exist, and there wasn’t any reflection of that part of myself. I just thought that it was something that had to be hidden or something that was wrong,” says Mikki Gillette, a transgender woman living in Portland. “So to get that kind of recognition from the government, when I was able to change my driver’s license and change my birth certificate, that felt important. Like the state agrees with me, even if other people don’t.”
Mikki was working as a substitute teacher when she started her transition. A fear was that when she became more reflective of her identity, she may be dropped from her teaching role. She didn’t know it at the time, but state non-discrimination laws protected her.
When Mikki talked to the school’s Human Resources Director, she was reassured that it didn’t matter how she identified, as long as she was dressed appropriately for work. That was the school’s policy. But how she would be received by some parents and community members was a different story.
“Some parents complained, and contacted the media,” she remembers. “The next day I turned on the news and it was really terrifying and awful. There was a news person asking if it’s OK for someone like me to teach at the school.”
The experience, understandably, got to Mikki.
“Looking back, I think if that law hadn’t happened, I would have been at the mercy of the school administrators,” she says. “We should all have the protections and rights we need to show up and do our jobs.”
With this executive order, Oregon takes one more step to ensuring everyone is recognized. One more step to a more inclusive and welcoming state.
“These recognitions matter. Because everyday patterns scale up to everyday behaviors,” said Governor Brown.
At a time when the United States Supreme Court is taking up three cases addressing LGBTQ employment discrimination that may turn back the clock on federal civil rights, this executive order will ensure protections are in place at the state level regardless of what happens at the federal level. Currently, 26 states lack legal protections against employment discrimination for LGBTQ+ people.
The executive order will prohibit state agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That includes hiring practices, whether someone is accessing public services, or is receiving public grants.
“With this Executive Order, we’re affirming that when you enter the rotunda of the State Capitol—or any state building—the message is clear: you’re welcome here,” said Nancy Haque, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon.