Immigrant Justice and Measure 88

by Sally Godard, Just Journey…a ministry of justice and advocacy, Yamhill County

saferoads 88In 2008, in an attempt to comply with the federal Real ID Act[1], the Oregon Legislature passed a law that has created a daily nightmare for many Oregon workers, their families, and their employers.

Although vigorously opposed by immigrant advocates, this Oregon law restricts driver’s licenses to those who can provide documents of their legal status in the state. No longer primarily a document to demonstrate one’s knowledge of the “rules of the road” and ability to pass the written and behind-the-wheel driver’s tests, the 2008 law now excluded immigrants without legal documents from obtaining or renewing a license.

The disastrous effect was immediate. Each year thousands of immigrants[2], many who had been here for a decade or more, were thrown into turmoil. Bread-winners who required transportation lost their jobs and employers lost experienced workers who could no longer buy insurance. Families lived in fear each day as they drove their kids to school, attended church, or kept a doctor’s appointment. If they were stopped by law enforcement and had no license, the risk of deportation was high. Yet especially in rural Oregon where there is very little public transportation, day-to-day life depended on being able to drive.

KEEPING ON WITH HOPE AND LOVE

By Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA
lgbt I'm human flagWhat a difference a year makes. We now have marriage equality in 20 states and the District of Columbia, though stays have been issued in several of those states pending appeal. In Oregon, ecstatic gay and lesbian couples have been getting married since May 19, 2014. Our own Conference Minister and Conference Moderator were on hand to officiate at many of the unions on that day. Many pastors and churches in the Central Pacific Conference worked tirelessly as people of faith to educate and gather petition signatures for the freedom to marry, and it made a difference.

Now that a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry and state bans are being overturned one-by-one, anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and their state affiliates are becoming more desperate to enshrine discrimination. They have tried to pass laws in numerous states like Arizona and Oregon that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay and lesbian people in the name of “religious freedom.” After strong pressure from top CEOs and the public, Arizona’s governor vetoed the law. In Oregon, NOM was hoping to get an initiative on the November ballot, but the organization has pulled the measure for now.

PRIDE: Pausing To Celebrate

by Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA

A Pride Primer: June is International LGBT Pride month, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969. That event is celebrated as the beginning of the modern movement for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, was a gay nightclub. But in 1969, it was illegal to dance with someone of your own gender, and it was illegal for a club to serve an LGBT clientele. The police often raided gay nightclubs, arrested patrons, published their names, and frequently beat them while in custody. Finally, on June 27, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused to accept the police brutality and resisted arrest. That resistance sparked a mass phase of political organization for gay rights.

We’ve come a long way in some respects. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the military rule that resulted in tens of thousands of soldiers being involuntarily discharged simply for being lesbian or gay has been repealed, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional by several federal circuit courts and is headed to the Supreme court, five states and the District of Columbia have Marriage Equality Laws, and Washington state and Maryland passed marriage equality laws this year, though opponents, funded largely by out-of-state money, have forced these laws onto the November ballot.

In the United Church of Christ (UCC), we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. Bill Johnson, the first openly gay person ordained in the UCC. Rev. Johnson was also one of the founding members of the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns (The Coalition). The Coalition administers the Open and Affirming (ONA) movement whereby churches publicly declare themselves welcoming to all LGBT people after undergoing a period of congregational discernment. You can learn more about their work, read their newsletter, and make a donation at www.ucccoalition.org.