Stonewall Dems make their mark in Oregon — and nationally

By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly


Photo by Jules Garza, PQ Monthly

 It’s nearly political convention time, and with that comes the familiar barrage of advertisements, speeches, debates — all of which is ramped up even more in the heat of a presidential election year.

LGBTQ rights have, as most everyone knows, sprung to the forefront of the national debate: marriage, adoption, Chick-fil-A, you name it — it’s probably queer-related. In addition to the big, welcome news that the Democratic Party will include marriage equality in its platform, it’s comforting to know there are plenty of Oregonians working hard here at home to ensure equality remains at the forefront.

Case in point: the Oregon Stonewall Democrats. Otherwise known as the Democratic Party of Oregon’s LGBTQ Caucus, the Stonewall Dems honed in on specific Legislative Action Items (otherwise known as political objectives) during the state convention and made sure ample queer representation makes it to the National Convention.

Joey Kerns, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon’s LGBTQ Caucus; photo by Jules Garza, PQ Monthy

“We were successful in getting 15 self-identified LGBT individuals elected delegates to the DNC Convention, which exceeded our goal by seven,” said Joey Kerns, who serves as caucus chair. “We employed a strategy that helped boil down a complex, state-wide process so that our members knew what conventions to sign up for and so they knew which candidates to support. By voting in bloc, strategizing, and forming coalitions, we ensured LGBT representation from Oregon at the DNC Convention.”

But their work didn’t end there. Here at home during the party’s convention held this past April, the Stonewall Democrats added four Legislative Action Items (LAIs) to this year’s Democratic Party of Oregon’s platform. Of those four, two received enough votes to be considered “top priority” by the party. The two priorities: to immediately pass the fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, along with ensuring full marriage equality for same-sex Oregon couples.

“LAIs express the vision and goals of the party,” Kerns said. “This means we have the Democratic Party of Oregon on record and focused on supporting marriage equality, the repeal of DOMA, fully inclusive ENDA, among other LGBT issues. This great success represents months of strategizing and planning by caucus members.”

The other two pieces of the platform are: to adopt a non-discriminatory “comprehensive Oregon health care system that provides universal coverage accessible to all Oregonians” and to assure “freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as modeled by the Oregon Equality Act.” That’s quite an agenda — and one that undoubtedly puts equality at the forefront this election year and beyond.

But it’s not all policy-making and agenda-following. When November comes around, folks also have to win races. On that front, the LGBT Caucus has honed in on some races they see as key to their success.

“We, of course, support all Democrats in the election,” Kerns explained. “But we have decided to support [Oregon Secretary of State] Kate Brown, [State Representative candidate] Claudia Kyle, [State Rep] Tina Kotek, and have officially endorsed Nena Cook for Oregon Supreme Court.”


For more on the Democratic Party of Oregon’s LGBTQ Caucus visit