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January 10th, 2007 Byron Beck | Queer Window
 

An Open Letter To Jeff Merkley, Oregon's New Speaker Of The House.

     
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Dear Mr. Speaker,

I know you've been the new speaker of Oregon's House just since Monday, when the Legislature opened. And I know you've got dozens of interest groups each insisting you help them now because each believes it's personally responsible for giving Democrats control of the state House (and putting you in the Speaker's chair) for the first time in nearly two decades.

But I want to make my voice clear before that cacophony of worthies drowns it out.

You might remember me. I heard you speak in front of my friends, both homos and hets, at that fancy party in West Linn during the holidays. I thought you were a decent guy, one I feel like I can speak to as my friend. At least, that's my hope.

You see, it's been a rough road for queers around here without any friends with power in the House. A couple of years ago my gay brothers and sisters went out on a limb and tried to get themselves married. I don't have to tell you how that all ended up.

We got our collective asses spanked just because we wanted the same rights as you and your wife, Mary. Not to mention your kids, Jonathan, 10, and Brynne, 8, when they're adults, gay or straight. We wanted anti-discrimination statutes or at least civil unions. But your predecessor, Republican Karen Minnis, crushed those hopes.

Now we finally seem to be getting back on track. It looks we've even got those damn evangelicals off our back—due to the fact so many of their own leaders are spending time on their own backs in compromising "situations"—but I digress.

For years now we've heard "well-intentioned" politicos say, "When there is a majority, we can work on (insert liberal queer cause here)." Well, with the support of a bunch of queer voters and their straight allies, you've got it. There are no more excuses: Your party kept the Senate and the governor's chair, and now has flipped the House from Republican control to Democratic.

It's your turn to get the House in line and drag the Senate and Gov. Ted with you.

I know you have a lot of work to do. But once you figure out health care and education, will you make sure that you get civil unions and anti-discrimination laws passed?

I mean, it's not like we're asking you to give us the big thumbs-up for gay marriage (Yes, you conservative snoops peeking at this letter: We do have a long-term agenda, but that's for another session). All we are asking the '07 Legislature to do is the right thing, the fair thing, damn near the only thing that Oregon can do for us right now.

I was pleasantly surprised you hired a member of Basic Rights Oregon to join your inner sanctum, considering the fact the Speaker's office wouldn't even take BRO's phone calls two years ago. I don't know how much sway your new communications director, Rebekah Orr, will have, but it heartens me to know that someone who's been working so hard for my partner's and my rights is now working for you.

I know the session won't be easy, and that the issue of gay rights will sit in a corner of the State House like a big gorilla waiting for its turn to thump its chest. But we put you there for a reason: to do your job. Represent all Oregonians and make sure all have equal rights.

Jeff, it saddens me to realize no one will ever win an election by supporting these issues, but you need to know that we've got your back, and we're damn sure as hell not going to let you lose an election because of our issues, either.

Now get to work,

Byron Beck

 
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