In general, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate on the basis of certain protected characteristics, including:
- Sex; and
- Other categories.
In addition to these protected categories, there are an increasing number of laws which are broadening equal rights for members of the LGBT community and those individuals who identify as LGBT. Examples of both state and federal laws that provide more legal rights and protections include:
- The Hate Crime Prevention Act: The Hate Crimes Prevention Act used to limit violence only associated with race and religion. However, it is now extended to sexual orientation, as well as gender and disability;
- Privacy: In general, sodomy laws are prohibited by the federal government based on the holding of the Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence v Texas;
- Military Service: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies were stuck down in 2011. LGBT individuals are now permitted to serve openly in the military branches. However, the status of transgender military members is currently being litigated and unclear;
- Housing: In 2012, a federal agency issued a regulation that prohibits LGBT discrimination in federally-assisted housing programs in order to prevent housing discrimination. Each state, however has its own laws that may apply to private housing discrimination as well as how this applies to LGBT individuals; and
- Marriage: In the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2014, the Supreme Court held that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated a fundamental right and was, therefore, unconstitutional. In general, same-sex marriage is now lawful throughout the United States.
The LGBT community is at the front of the movement to lobby the federal government to provide the same civil rights protections which are afforded to:
- Racial minorities;
- Disabled individuals; and
- Elderly individuals.
The LGBT community often works in conjunction with the ACLU as well as other advocacy groups. There are many states which expanded LGBT rights before the federal government took the issue under consideration.
The passage of federal laws, however, paves the way for more states to pass similar laws. Because of this, the LGBT community enjoys more legal protections each year.
What are LGBT Rights in Oregon?
The history of rights for members of the LGBT community in the United States has been fraught with marginalization; violence; and stigma. In the 1950’s, gay rights activists began pushing back against the laws which criminalized homosexual-type sexual activity and relationships.
The Gay Liberation cause was ignited in Oregon and the fight to equal rights gradually came into the spotlight following New York’s Stonewall Riots in 1969. Over the last several decades, the fight for civil rights and equality in communities throughout the State of Oregon has not been easy.
The Oregon legislature repealed the sodomy law in 1971. It was not until 2003 that the Supreme Court struck down the remaining sodomy laws in the United States.
Portland, Oregon adopted civil rights protections for gays and lesbians which banned anti-gay discrimination in municipal employment. Eugene, Oregon began to follow Portland but faced backlash.
Governor Neil Goldschmidt signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in state employment in 1987. There was backlash from the conservative community which continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s in addition to HIV and AIDS which further alienated the LGBT community.
The Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), which is a conservative political group, took action against against the individuals who were fighting for gay rights. As a result, there were eventually anti-gay rights laws in 27 counties and cities in Oregon.
In the 2000s, Oregon hate crime laws were passed to protect:
- Gay; and
- Transgendered people.
In 2007, same-sex couples were permitted to adopt children. They also received protection from discrimination in state-supported schools.
Other states also began to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and in turn, began allowing same-sex marriage. The State of Oregon began to recognize same-sex unions with the United States Supreme Court rulings of U.S. v. Windsor in 2013, and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015.
The Court ruled that, pursuant to the 14th Amendment to the Untied States Constitution, state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.
What is the History of Oregon’s Allowance for Sodomy?
Oregon repealed its sodomy statute in 1971. However, it did add “accosting for deviate purposes” to the criminal code.
The Oregon appeals court struck down that addition in 1981. Same-sex sexual intercourse was decriminalized except in situations which involve underage and non-consensual sex crime cases.
Does Oregon Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?
Yes, Oregon began to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions in 2013. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Oregon in 2014 after United States District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled that Oregon’s banning of these marriages was unconstitutional.
As noted above, following the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the rest of the nation joined Oregon and other states and recognized the legality of same-sex marriage.
What About LGBT Adoption and Parenting in Oregon?
In Oregon, a same-sex couple may adopt children and stepchildren. For male couples, a surrogate may be used.
For female couples, IVF and assisted insemination are available. In addition, single LGBT individuals may petition for adoption in Oregon.
The number of children who are residing with LGBT parents continues to rise as same-sex parenting and adoption becomes more widely accepted and commonplace. If this trend of acceptance continues, so will the number of similar households.
It is important to note that parental rights and adoption rights are governed by state laws. Therefore, even if more conservative justices are appointed to the Supreme Court and if Obergefell v. Hodges is reversed, it would not stop Oregonians from obtaining second parent adoptions. Unless the state of Oregon experiences a political shift, LGBT parents will continue to adopt children if they choose to do so.
What Types of Discrimination Protection and Hate Crime Laws are Available in Oregon?
Discrimination against individuals based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity was banned in Oregon in 2008. Hate crimes based upon these characteristics are also covered under Oregon’s laws in addition to the state’s laws governing:
- Cyberbullying; and
Oregon is one of 18 states which address bias or hate crimes that are based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
What About Gender Reassignment Protection in Oregon?
Gender dysphoria is the inner conflict an individual feels when their physical or assigned sex at birth is not what he, she, or they identify with inwardly and outwardly. An individual in Oregon can undergo gender reassignment surgery which would alter the individual’s physical appearance to match that of the gender to which they identify.
In Oregon, the age of medical consent is 15 years old and has been since 1971. Oregon opted to include gender dysmorphia in the list of conditions which is covered by the state’s Medicaid plans in 2015.
Because of this, individuals who are 15 years of age and older are eligible to receive gender reassignment surgery.
Should I Consult an Attorney for LGBT Rights in Oregon?
The protections and rights of the LGBT community are continually changing and evolving. If you have experienced discrimination or any other issues pertaining to LGBT rights in Oregon, you should contact an Oregon family attorney as soon as possible.
Your attorney can advise you regarding the current laws in the state and provide guidance for your specific case. If it becomes necessary, your attorney will also represent you in court.