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Gay History Month: Remembering Northwest LGBT history
Gay History Month: Remembering Northwest LGBT history
by Bookda Gheisar - Special to the SGN

The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to the struggle for Gay rights. In fact, one of our very own is responsible for the first "official" civic designation of October as Lesbian and Gay History Month. In 1995, former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber made the declaration, paving the way for other elected officials. Gay rights and anti-defamation groups have been celebrating ever since.

However, as is so often the case, a place that is home to a movement's greatest advocates is also home to some if its greatest foes. Twelve years after Kitzhaber's declaration our brothers and sisters in Oregon found themselves under attack -- during the very month he recognized as a time to celebrate and to highlight the GLBT community's important national and international contributions.

For those that have not followed the recent attack on our GLBT brothers and sisters to the south, I am pleased to let you know that a recent anti-Gay referendum intended to repeal Oregon's anti-discrimination law failed to make the ballot. The same is true for a referendum that would have overturned Oregon's domestic partnership law.

Both of these laws were passed earlier this year after decades of struggle. Struggle not unlike Washington's own that culminated with passage of an anti-discrimination law in 2006 that covers sexual orientation. We became the 17th state in the nation with such a law. Like Oregon, our rights were also challenged. Almost immediately after the historic passage of Washington's anti-discrimination legislation there were people ready to repeal the new law.

Fortunately, supporters of the anti-Gay rights measures in Washington and in Oregon found themselves short of the signatures needed to make the ballot.

I believe that the recent attacks on GLBT rights - as well as last year's attack on immigrant rights in Washington - are part of a broader attack on civil and human rights, one that diverts attention away from the real issues of social justice. As long as we (people of color, the GLBT community, immigrants) remain a "silent" majority to be used as scapegoats, we will never find solutions for root causes that fuel discrimination.

I am an immigrant. I am a Lesbian. I am a mother. In each of these roles I want the promise of freedom on which our country is founded to ring true.

Our country's constitution exists in order to protect the many from the tyranny of the few, but we are all too aware that basic human rights are far from guaranteed. So as we celebrate GLBT history as well as recent victories in our region, let us also commit to simple things that each of us can do to create a just society:

· Participate. Register to vote and show up at the polls. Volunteer at an organization that is addressing the root causes of inequality, not temporary fixes.

· Educate. Stay informed about the individuals and organizations in our region that fuel the fires of discrimination. And take time to learn about those that have helped to empower the GLBT community and other targets of social injustice.

· Donate. Target your philanthropic dollars to find meaningful, long-term solutions to social injustices. Currently, only 2% of giving is targeted toward social justice issues.

Given that it is GLBT History Month, let me close with a quote from a Lesbian that I celebrate, African-American author and poet Audre Lorde: "Revolution is not a one-time event." Indeed. The threat in Oregon has abated for now, but the fight for social justice continues.

Bookda Gheisar has served as the Executive Director of Social Justice Fund NW for the past seven years. Social Justice Fund NW is a member-funded foundation that supports grassroots organizations throughout the region that share a vision of a more just, equitable and caring society.


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