Rights for Gays Added to Charter

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Case You Missed It is a digest of recent Register-Guard articles of interest to Springfield readers.

The City Council gave quick and unanimous approval Monday to an ordinance that protects gays and lesbians against discrimination.

The ordinance amends Springfield's charter by adding "sexual orientation" to a list of classes for which an individual cannot be treated with prejudice.

Under the charter, individuals also may not be discriminated against based on their "race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, disability or national origin."

The amendment was essentially a "housekeeping matter," said Joe Leahy, Springfield's city attorney, as the clause was mistakenly left out of the discrimination section when Springfield redrafted its charter in 2001.

The ordinance won't bring about any practical change, because discrimination against gays and lesbians already is prohibited at the state level, Leahy noted.

Under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, discrimination against homosexuals is illegal in areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, foster parenting and jury service.

The addition marks the first time Springfield has explicitly taken a position against such discrimination since the city drew national attention in 1992 for becoming the first in America to add anti-gay rights language to its code.

That year, 55 percent of Springfield voters approved a ballot measure that barred the city from taking any step that specifically protected homosexuals from discrimination, and stated that the city could not "promote, encourage or facilitate" homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.

"The measure has put Springfield on the map nationally and internationally as the city that voted to institutionalize discrimination against homosexuals," a Register-Guard editorial asserted on June 19, 1992.

The ballot measure was championed by the now-defunct Oregon Citizens Alliance, an organization led by activist Lon Mabon that fought against gay rights throughout the state in the 1990s.

The alliance was unsuccessful in its 1992 campaign to place anti-gay language in the state constitution, but voters in 25 other Oregon cities and counties approved the addition of such terminology to their charters by May 1994. Junction City, Creswell, Cottage Grove, Oakridge and Veneta were the other Lane County cities to do so.

All the charter changes later were invalidated by the Oregon Legislature and by the courts - although in Springfield's case the anti-gay language remained in the charter, unenforced, until the 2001 redraft.

Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, who became a city councilor in 1999, said after the meeting that the charter addition was an important

step toward ridding the city of some of the "stigma" it had earned through the 1992 vote.

"Over the last year or so, we've taken on diversity in a meaningful way, and this (addition) just fits with that," she said.

Lundberg said the memory of the 1992 vote had lived on for many years, particularly in the minds of people outside the community.

Marcola Meadowsadded to VA watch list

Marcola Meadows is the newest contender to emerge publicly in the competition for a major new Veterans Affairs clinic that will be built in Eugene or Springfield.

Graham Development of Carmel, Calif., bought the 100-acre development in north Springfield out of foreclosure recently. The developer has now made the first cut for companies vying to build the clinic, which will be leased to the VA for 20 years for about $2.2 million per year.

"We essentially are shovel-ready. If we are awarded the contract, we could be pushing dirt virtually immediately," said Dennis Randazzo, a Portland broker and manager of part of the Marcola project. "There's a team in place right now. …