Oregon Ruling Gives Lesbian and Gay Partners Equal Benefits

A court in Oregon has banned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace. Gay rights activists have worked towards such a measure for 23 years.

The Court of Appeals decided that the health benefits guaranteed to the spouses of married couples would also be granted to the domestic partners of three lesbian employees of the Oregon Health Sciences University.

The panel of three judges stated that the “denial of insurance benefits to the unmarried partners” of gay and lesbian employees was a violation against the equal protection provisions of Oregon’s constitution.

Deputy Attorney General David Schuman stated clearly, “This tells Oregonians that discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, public and private, is illegal.”

All state government employees, including teachers, police officers, postal workers, and others, will be affected by the ruling. Private employers were not specifically cited in the ruling.

Gay rights supporters expressed their enthusiasm over the decision. “The state court gave us a ban on discrimination in employment stronger than anything we could introduce in the Legislature in 23 years,” said Jean Harris, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. “We love it. We’ll take it.”


AP - December 10, 1998

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