Lawmakers tackle bigotry, health care at Queer Town Hall
Eight Oregon lawmakers gathered at Portland State University Wednesday evening, March 28, for a Queer Town Hall to answer questions and address concerns of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community.
Audience members asked questions and others were submitted via text or Facebook Live while the event took place. The town hall was hosted by Basic Rights Oregon, whose mission is equality and political representation for LGBTQ people across the state.
One of the first questions asked was about House Bill 2673, which passed last year. State Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, introduced the bill, which made it easier for transgender people to update state documents, such as by changing their legal name or gender identity. "It's a much less invasive way to update important state documents without having to go to court," Nosse said.
The bill gained bipartisan support and went into effect in October, making the change an easier administrative procedure rather than requiring a judge.
Another topic that stood out was homelessness and the foster care system in Portland. State Rep. Tawna Sanchez, D-Portland, said the foster system needs improvement, but assured attendees that it is being worked on. She talked about how some foster kids have been forced out of their homes because foster parents were unable to accept that they were LGBTQ. She also said that it's not legal for foster parents to push their religion on a foster child, and that they hope to recruit more LGBTQ people to be foster parents.
Discrimination was discussed in regards to insurance and health care. Rep. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone, said he grew up poor and feels health care should be a fundamental right for every Oregonian. According to Meek, one in four transgender people in America experience hardships in getting insurance coverage and affordable health care.
The town hall also opened up a discussion about LGBTQ rights nationally, as President Trump released an order last Friday banning most transgender people from serving in the military.
"Every time they take something away, the states are going to have to step up and fill in the gap," said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. She also said individuals could stand up to end discrimination themselves by speaking with their dollars and supporting LGBT-friendly companies.
A theme throughout the evening was that culture needs to change, not just laws. One audience member said she saw no real obstacles with children; it's adults who discriminate. "I feel like if kids are growing up and learning these things are normal and are human, the culture can change."
Nosse, who is gay, said fortunately his kids have never been teased about having two dads, but there does need to be more education and acceptance. "I think laws do change culture," he said, but he also stated hearts and minds need to be changed, not just laws.
Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, addressed the culture shift by talking about how companies can get rid of things like gendered toys. "It doesn't matter!" she said in regards to the increasingly popular 'gender reveal parties' that expecting parents host.
Other issues discussed were immigration, paid family leave, criminalization of drug use, student loans and gun safety.
Find out more:
Basic Rights Oregon: www.basicrights.org