For the past few weeks I have heard from many of you expressing your concerns pro and con regarding SB2 and HB2007. By now most of you are aware that SB2 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public places throughout the state. HB 2007 creates a method of legal recognition for same-sex relationships in Oregon, namely domestic partnerships.
As your representative I feel a responsibility to listen to your concerns and try to make your wishes heard. Sometimes this is not difficult when the issue is one that is fairly similarly viewed within the district. However, it is an entirely different concern when there are widely divergent opinions on a particular issue.
This was the situation with the above two bills. Adding to the complexity was the complication of religion and moral beliefs, and people’s rights. While there were many people with strong religious convictions that opposed these bills there were also a large number of church groups that strongly supported the legislation. Given that situation, I had to make a very difficult vote.
While I respect the position of Oregon voters on Measure 36, which banned same-sex marriage, I also know that many voters who did so believed same-sex couples should have some protections for their relationships in the form of a civil union or domestic partnership.
Many voters further stated that discrimination in things like jobs and housing is wrong. Having lived through the civil rights years where the differential treatment of people who were different was exposed as unfair I believe that our state is strengthened when all who live and work here are equal under the law. No one should be fired from a job, denied a table in a restaurant, or blocked from making medical decisions for a loved one in an emergency simply because of their sexual orientation. Discrimination has no place in our state, and as such I felt compelled to vote for the bills.
Interestingly there is something of a precedent from our district regarding this issue. When former Rep. Chuck Norris held this legislative seat in 1989, HB 2784 came to the floor on one of the last days of the session, July 2nd. That bill essentially stated that sexual orientation was a category that could not be intimidated against. The outcome of that vote was 31-29 with Rep. Norris being the deciding vote.
Thank you, Representative Jenson, for your courage in making this difficult decision. You did the right thing.