SALEM— Gov. Ted Kulongoski has signed an executive order establishing the state's first Governor's Task Force on Equality in Oregon.
The governor charged the task force with analyzing current law and considering whether changes are needed to guarantee that all Oregonians receive adequate protection from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and other opportunities, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"My commitment to this issue dates back to my first term in elected office — 1975 — when I introduced legislation to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. More than 30 years later, we're still fighting to protect all Oregonians from being turned down or fired from a job, denied housing or service at public institutions based on sexual orientation," Kulongoski said.
At least 17 other states and numerous countries have adopted legislation that protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing or public accommodation.
"The citizens of Oregon deserve to have their government examine this issue carefully, as well," Kulongoski added.
The task force will review anti-discrimination legislation adopted by other states, as well as the bill introduced by the governor during the 2005 legislative session and other bills that camebeforethe Legislature. When considering legislation adopted by other states, the governor directed the task force to focus on the actual effects of adopting such legislation, including any effects on business.
"Thoughlegislation failed to pass again last session to establish this protection under Oregon law, the debate and discussion about the principles of basic fairness and equity must continue through the interim," the governor said. "That's why this task force is important — to continue the dialogue about how to make Oregon a state of economic and social opportunity for all of our citizens regardless of race, gender, age or sexual orientation. When we achieve this goal, Oregon will be a better place for everyone to live."
The task force will provide a final report to the governor's office no later than Dec. 1. The report will include recommendations for the 2007 legislative session that will address necessary changes to ensure the same rights and privileges to all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Appropriate legal options for grievance, enforcement and resolution also will be discussed for people who feel they have experienced unequal treatment or discrimination in either the public or private sectors.
The task force will consist of between eight and 12 members. Its chair will be Paul Kelly, retired global director of public affairs for Nike Inc. and a Portland attorney. The full roster of the membership will be announced in the coming weeks.
To view the executive order, visit http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/pdf/eo0603.pdf.