The United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 Tuesday to revive the Trump administration’s discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military—and that’s just the latest in a long string of negative headlines for LGBTQ people coming out of Washington, DC.
But in Oregon, there’s possible good news on the horizon: One lawmaker is working to abolish transphobic language from state law.
State Rep. Karin Power, whose district includes Milwaukie and parts of Southeast Portland, is the chief sponsor of House Bill 2589. The bill, introduced in the 2019 legislative assembly that began Tuesday, would eliminate outdated, offensive references to sexual orientation and gender identity that currently exist in Oregon law.
“There are two places in state law where the word ‘transvestite’ still occurs,” Power told the Mercury. “And it’s really old. Unless somebody proactively does housekeeping cleanup, a lot of that stuff just stays.”
“Transvestite” is an outdated term that is today considered offensive by the trans community. Power’s legislation would remove its two appearances in Oregon state law—both of which imply that being trans is akin to having a disability or psychological disorder.
“In one location, in talking about what constitutes a disability, the word ‘transvestite’ is placed on the same line in state law as pedophilia,” said Power, “which is incredibly offensive to the transgender community and anybody who has to work in this area of law and see it periodically in their profession.”
Power’s bill would also broaden the scope of a portion of state law that states gay and bisexual people are not considered physically or mentally impaired. It proposes replacing the terms “homosexuality and bisexuality” with “sexual orientation and transgender status” to include all members of the LGBTQ community.
While the changes proposed in House Bill 2589 are largely symbolic, they follow an important trend on the state and national level of removing outdated phrases from written laws and codes. Last year, the Oregon State Legislature passed a law making it easier to remove racist language from property deeds, and recent years have seen several instances of racist words being removed from state laws.