Merkley outlines plans for LGBT civil rights bill

Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined Friday with Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and Oregon LGBT leaders to announce his plan to push broad LGBT civil rights legislation in the next Congress.  

Merkley laid out his rationale and plan for across the board protections for LGBT Americans and announced that he will be working with advocates and congressional partners in 2015 to draft and introduce such legislation.

“Here in Oregon it is different. Since historic legislation passed in 2007, LGBT Oregonians are protected from discrimination. However, in dozens of states across the country, LGBT Americans lack the basic nondiscrimination protections that so many of us take for granted,” said Merkley.

“In North Carolina today, a gay man could be fired from his job just for being gay. In Michigan, a young couple could be denied the chance to buy their first home just because they’re both women. In Pennsylvania, a transgender woman could be denied service and kicked out of a restaurant just for being who she is. And all of this would be perfectly legal.  Perfectly legal, but absolutely wrong.

“It’s time for a comprehensive federal nondiscrimination act that will guarantee equality to every LGBT American,” the senator said.

Citing his work to advance LGBT rights in Oregon in the face of strong opposition, Merkley drew parallels to the fight for federal legislation.  The legislation Merkley proposed would be the first comprehensive national non-discrimination bill introduced in four decades. 

In Oregon, Merkley as speaker of the Oregon House and Brad Avakian as state senator led the successful fight to pass a comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination bill in 2007.

“Oregon’s equality act should serve as a model as Congress debates ensuring that more Americans are kept free from discrimination,” said Avakian. “The law works for employees, business owners and communities around the state. I greatly appreciate the leadership of Senator Merkley as he fights for landmark non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans to make our society stronger and more just.”