Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski statement on civil unions, ENDA bills

Oregon Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski made the following statement at yesterday's signing ceremony for the state's civil unions and employment non-discrimination act (ENDA) bills:

Remarks by Governor Kulongoski

May 9, 2007

HB 2007 and SB 2 Signing Ceremony

Good Morning. Today is truly a historic day for Oregon.

I look out at you in the crowd – and at those standing with me today – and I see the faces of my friends, my colleagues and my fellow Oregonians who, like me, have been fighting for this day for more than thirty years.

This has been a long road traveled. It has taken patience. It has taken perseverance. It has taken our will to never give up on the dream of hope and opportunity for all Oregonians.

And today, we can deliver that dream by ending legal discrimination once and for all against gays and lesbians in Oregon – and by extending protections and legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families.

I started this legislative session declaring that this is the session of opportunity. That this is the session where we will succeed in affording all Oregonians the same rights and protections under the law. And that this is the session where we will formally recognize that diversity and equality of opportunity makes us all stronger – not weaker.

I don’t get to say this as much as I like to, but I couldn’t be more proud to stand before you today and say, "I was right!"

This is the session where we have succeeded in upholding the values and principles of Oregon – that we are all created equal and that Oregon is a land of equal opportunity for all of our citizens.

This is the session where we’re breaking down barriers to all Oregon families to live and love – play and succeed – work and contribute to one Oregon – to a better Oregon.

I only have the greatest respect for our legislators – of both parties – and their commitment to their constituents in their committee work and their work to make the best decisions on behalf of what’s best for Oregon. But if you look at the majority of the bills that pass each session, they are what I call transactional.

However, every decade or so there are a few bills that are actually transformational – and House Bill 2007 and Senate Bill 2 are two pieces of legislation that will literally transform our state from one of exclusion to one of complete inclusion.

And there are a lot of people here today who deserve credit for this transformation.

I’m looking out at many who took time out of their busy lives of work and family to spend hours on the phone, writing letters, educating the public and lobbying the legislature for these bills.

From my Task Force on Equality to individual Oregonians to organizations like Basic Rights Oregon to corporate partners like Nike – today is truly the result of a collective effort affirming that we really are one Oregon – with one common destiny.

But there are three special people here today that I want to recognize, thank and honor. They have been leaders in this movement and by my side in the struggle for basic fairness and equality for all Oregonians for more than thirty years – Gov. Barbara Roberts, Terry Bean and Don Powell.

First, though, I want to introduce two legislators who made this possible. While I like to think as Governor, I can make it happen on my own, the reality is that to be effective, I need strong partners in the legislature, to enact legislation like Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2007.

So I’d like to ask my good friend, colleague and champion of gay rights, Senator Kate Brown to take the stage, followed by Speaker Merkley, who kept his promise to bring these two bills to the floor.

Now I’d like to recognize Governor Roberts – who has been fighting for equal rights of gays and lesbians as long as – if not longer than – all of us.

She stood up for equality before it was politically correct, politically popular or politically viable.

She broke ground on the road that got us to where we are today – and even after her time in public service, she never stopped paving the path to progress, and ultimately, full equality.

She is a great friend, a great mentor, a great leader – and a great Oregonian.

She represents the best of Oregon – past, present, and today, future – and it is with great honor to share this moment with her.

And now, Governor Barbara Roberts.

The next two speakers are good friends and good Oregonians who have been with me throughout my public career – starting back in Junction City.

We may not always agree, but we’ve remained friends and we’ve remained united in this fight to establish equality and fairness for all Oregonians.

My good friends, Terry Bean and Don Powell.

The next person is someone who answered my call last year and chaired my Task Force on Equality – taking on an ambitious mission with an aggressive timeline.

I charged the Task Force with analyzing current law and identifying changes necessary to guarantee that all Oregonians receive equal protection from discrimination regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I also asked the Task Force to review states with domestic partnerships and to identify the path for Oregon to establish legal recognition of same-sex couples and their families.

The Task Force had diverse representation from the business community, faith community, education community, health care community, legal community and local governments.

The members dedicated hours of their personal time each month toward this cause – and in a short time frame, they delivered a report and recommendations to me in time for legislation to be introduced this session.

As a result of their commitment to creating a more equal and fair Oregon, these two bills were introduced and with their help in educating the public and the legislature – these two bills were passed with bi-partisan support.

So thank you, Paul and to the other 10 members of the Task Force who are here today. Your role was invaluable to achieving this historic moment.

I also want to thank Attorney General Hardy Myers and the Department of Justice, and Labor Commissioner Dan Gardner and BOLI for supporting the work of the task force and lending staff assistance to ensure the Task Force was able to carry out its mission.

With that, I’d like to turn the podium over to Paul Kelly, attorney and business leader, who served as the Chair of my Task Force on Equality.

Before we move on to the bill signing, there is one more person I’d like to recognize and give an opportunity to say a few words. He is new to Oregon – I believe he’s moved here within the last few weeks…But he is not new to the GLBT civil rights movement.

From Idaho, he was the first openly gay attorney in the state and has been a passionate leader and advocate for the GLBT community throughout the west for the last twenty years.

He is a proven leader and a welcome addition to Oregon, whom I look forward to working with in the coming years.

With that, I’d like to introduce John Hummel, Basic Rights Oregon’s new Executive Director.

Now let’s sign these bills into law!!!

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