Despite a number of recent setbacks, my vision for gay and lesbian rights remains positive. Our message, instead of being a footnote on the back page of the newspaper, is now front page news. We have fought and won many battles against state and local anti-gay initiatives. We have created a positive atmosphere for lesbians and gays in communities and families.
I have spent three terms in the Oregon State House of Representatives, and twice we have tried and failed to pass civil rights legislation. It is too early to tell what will happen this session, but our bill seems destined to share the fate of its predecessors.
Nevertheless, I am optimistic. In Oregon our opponents are losing steam. A recent poll demonstrated that 77 percent of Oregonians think that it is unfair for a person to lose a job because of his or her sexual orientation. Our message is getting out.
And we are coming out. Although violence and bigotry still exist, and although we must always remain vigilant, conditions for lesbians and gays continue to improve. Organizations like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) are proving that strong families can exist within the gay community. And there are an increasing number of lesbian and gay candidates for office.
If anything, we are sometimes guilty of shooting ourselves in the foot. A hundred thousand people turn out for a parade to support our cause, and of course, the news cameras still focus on the more outrageous among us.
This decade has been one of great progress. As long as we continue to meet people, to spread our message, to fight for basic rights to employment, housing and services--indeed, as long as we continue to champion justice for all, we will be victorious.
George Eighmey is an Oregon State Representative.