Governor Kate Brown signs an executive order expanding protections for LGBTQ+ Oregonians.
Governor Kate Brown signs an executive order expanding protections for LGBTQ+ Oregonians. blair stenvick

Anti-discrimination rights for trans and nonbinary Oregonians have just been expanded.

Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order Friday morning prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at all state agencies. The order builds on a previous executive order signed by then-Governor Neil Goldschmidt in 1987, which only applied to discrimination based on sexual orientation; now, trans and non-binary people will be included in the protections.

“The longstanding executive order needs to be updated to reflect current law, and understandings about sexual orientation and gender identity,” Brown said in remarks delivered before the signing ceremony in Portland.

“It’s not often as your governor that I get to push the gay agenda—which of course is equity under the law,” quipped Brown, who is bisexual and was the first openly LGBTQ+ person to be elected governor of a US state.

The new executive order, which is supported by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) and the ACLU of Oregon, will ensure that all LGBTQ+ Oregonians are protected from discrimination when it comes to accessing public services, applying for and receiving public grant money, filling out paperwork for public data collection, and competing for government contract work. It also outlaws anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination at all public agencies, including public schools and prisons.

“We do this work for kids in schools who should not be forced to conform to a binary just to use a restroom or locker room,” Brown said. “We do it for transgender adults in custody who deserve to feel safe while they serve their sentence… and we do it for the teeny but loud part of our brains that say ‘Don’t make waves. Be grateful for what you have.’ These recognitions matter, because everyday patterns scale up to everyday behaviors.”

D Pei Wu, a nonbinary person who works as an air quality planner at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said the new order makes them “feel seen and supported, and proud to call Oregon home.” Speaking at the signing ceremony, Wu said the executive order will have the effect of requiring all state paperwork to include an option for non-binary people when asking about gender.

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“I’m super excited that I’m going to be able to check a box on a form that says non-binary, instead of leaving it blank, which is what I currently have to do,” they said.

D Pei Wu
D Pei Wu blair stenvick

Brown’s signing of this executive order comes as the nation waits for a Supreme Court ruling that has the potential to provide sweeping national progress for LGBTQ+ employment rights—or deliver a major setback for the cause, depending on how the court rules. Speaking at a press conference about the pending Supreme Court decision earlier this month, BRO Executive Director Nancy Haque said that while state-level protections are important, a national law cementing LGBTQ+ protections is still sorely needed.

“Many federal courts and agencies have long held that firing someone simply because they’re transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexual is unlawful discrimination,” Haque said. “The current patchwork of laws across the country is unfair and unworkable. It leaves too many behind.”

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