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Oregon governor
to create antidiscrimination task force

Oregon governor
to create antidiscrimination task force

Stymied in his efforts to win approval of a new state law to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski plans to create a task force to study whether new laws are needed to guarantee equal rights for gays and lesbians. Kulongoski, who was to sign an executive order Thursday establishing the task force, said the issue involves basic fairness and making Oregon "a better place for everyone to live." At the start of the 2005 legislature, the Democratic governor listed as a high priority winning passage of a bill that would ban discrimination against gays in employment, housing, and public accommodations as well as allow civil unions for gay couples. The measure was approved by the Democrat-controlled senate, but it died in the house after house speaker Karen Minnis and other Republicans said the civil unions provision would violate the spirit of a same-sex marriage ban approved by Oregon voters in November 2004. In announcing the creation of the new task force, Kulongoski said the house GOP's refusal to approve the gay rights bill didn't end the debate. "That's why this task force is important: to continue the dialogue about how to make Oregon a state of economic and social opportunity for all of our citizens regardless of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation," Kulongoski said Wednesday in a prepared statement. The governor said the task force would comprise eight to 12 members appointed by him and would make recommendations to the 2007 legislature on what changes are needed to "assure equal protection" for gays and lesbians. In particular, he said, the task force will look for ways "to ensure that Oregon law provides an appropriate legal pathway for grievance, enforcement, and resolution if Oregonians experience unequal treatment or discrimination in either the public or private sectors." Last November, Oregon's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was upheld by a judge who turned aside arguments from gay rights supporters that the measure is flawed and should not have been put to a statewide vote. Gay rights supporters later said they would appeal the ruling while continuing the political fight in the 2007 legislature to gain more rights and benefits for gay couples. (AP)

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