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Reflections on National Coming Out Day

I got my first political job in the summer of 1994, knocking on doors for the Human Rights Campaign, urging Oregonians to vote no on Measure 13 – one of the awful, homophobic ballot measures pushed by the Oregon Citizens' Alliance during the 80s and 90s.

We won that fight with the OCA – and every one after that – by bringing Oregonians together for a common good: making sure that in this state, love is love.

I learned so much that summer. I learned that building a movement by appealing to people's better nature is more difficult than stoking their fears, but it's far more gratifying and enduring.

I learned the power of joining a movement led by folks fighting for their rights. I learned how to listen and how to use my privilege as a straight white man to amplify others' voices.

And I learned that, at its best, politics is a venue to make the world better.

Those lessons, and the values they embody, have guided my entire career.

And while I don't want to take for granted all the progress we've made since 1994 – I'd like to believe that were it proposed today, Measure 13 wouldn't stand a chance – there's still so much to do.

There's still too much ignorance. Too much hate. Too much fear.

I'm saddened - and frankly, enraged - to know so many LGBTQIA+ kids and adults in Oregon who have to hide who they are from their families and communities or risk their own safety. In the upcoming legislative session, I’ll be introducing a bill to outlaw the “gay panic defense” in Oregon. It’s a pathetic legal tactic in which criminal defendants claim that they committed a violent crime because they were upset or frightened by someone else’s sexual or gender expression. It’s a perversion of justice, and we absolutely must prevent anyone from using it in Oregon courtrooms.

Today, I'm asking you to observe National Coming Out Day by joining me in making a donation to Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC), which supports sexual and gender minority youth ages 13-23 in the Portland area.

As always, I am honored to fight by your side.


Posted on October 11, 2020.