By JEANA FRAZZINI, for PQ Monthly
Six years ago, I became the Executive Director at Basic Rights Oregon. So much has changed in our movement and right here in Oregon. At that time, we were putting our Domestic Partnership legislation and the Oregon Equality Act into action with the help of an amazing coalition and task force of government agencies. In 2009, we worked with a broad coalition to pass the Oregon Safe Schools Act, and we embarked on our biggest strategic plan to date with a bold new approach to ensure that all LGBT Oregonians experience full equality, establishing goals for 2009-2013 that included:
• Building majority support for full marriage equality for all Oregonians
• Building a broad and inclusive movement
• Achieving significant policy change to improve the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming Oregonians
• Increasing and enforcing protections for LGBT and allied youth across Oregon
• Enforcing and defending our victories
Back then we were just beginning to establish our Transgender Justice Working Group and Our Families Cohort and building what would become our Transgender Justice and Racial Justice programs. We did not yet have a clear path for increasing access for transgender and gender non-conforming folks in healthcare insurance, nor the amazing video campaign of Our Families highlighting the experiences of LGBT families of color in Oregon that were picked up nationally. We were doing a lot research and experimentation on how best to win the freedom to marry after our loss in 2004. Times were different, and since then we have had many amazing victories here in Oregon, as well as nationally, with still a lot of movement building work ahead. As we head into 2014, Basic Rights Oregon is going into our biggest year to date, and it’s critical to have your engagement and support in all areas of our work.
Basic Rights Oregon has been working towards winning the freedom to marry for more than a decade, in the legislature, the courts and the public arena. As an anchor organization in the Oregon United for Marriage coalition, we are working hard on the initiative campaign underway to ask Oregon voters to replace the state marriage ban with the freedom to marry in November 2014. Basic Rights, along with ACLU of Oregon has also signed on with a lawsuit, as a parallel effort to secure marriage equality in Oregon for same-sex couples. The lawsuit alleges that Oregon’s constitutional ban on marriage for lesbian and gay couples—Measure 36—violates the U.S. Constitution. We are pursuing all avenues, and one way or another we will win the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples in Oregon.
In our Transgender Justice work, we are celebrating one year of having the Oregon Insurance Division banning private insurers from denying medically necessary care to transgender people. And this year we led the effort to make Oregon one of only a handful of states where transgender people can change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their identities without costly surgery requirements. In 2014 the team will research, develop and launch plans to remove trans-specific exclusions from the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), Oregon’s Medicaid program. We’ll continue our strong focus on educating state agencies, and we’ll deepen our leadership development work within the trans community, with specific focus on trans people of color, trans women, and trans youth.
In our Racial Justice and Alliance Building program, we were successful in supporting the efforts of our coalition partners by educating LGBT friendly legislators about key racial justice issues, and last year victories included passing both tuition equity and cultural competency! In 2014, we’ll continue to expand our work to centralize the leadership of LGBT families of color and to support our base to take actions in support of racial justice. We are inspired to work every day for racial justice and to lift up the voices of LGBT people of color. This work will be more important than ever in 2014 as anti-immigrant forces step up their attacks at the ballot with the “Oregon Safe Roads Act referendum.” We are also excited to work with Western States Center and Oregon United for Marriage in inviting leaders of organizations that work in communities of color to convene Communities of Color United for Marriage to combat the race wedge that we have seen used by our opposition in all avenues of LGBT equality here in Oregon and nationwide.
On top of all of this amazing work, Basic Rights will also embark on our next strategic plan, determining our vision for 2015-2020. This effort will include a series of community listening sessions, one on one conversations with community leaders and surveys—all to hear from YOU about setting the course for Basic Rights Oregon for the next five years and beyond.
We have a big year ahead of us and we need everyone to do their part by: Digging in to win the freedom to marry; Becoming a leader or ally in the work for racial and transgender justice; Building a vision together with our strategic plan process; Having a huge impact at the ballot in ensuring that we elect pro-equality candidates and pass ballot measures that positively affect us all.
If there ever were a time to get engaged with Basic Rights, that moment is now. With your help—and only with your help—we can win the freedom to marry and move forward with achieving equality for all Oregonians!
Executive Director, Basic Rights Oregon
Chief Petitioner, Oregon United for Marriage