No Native American tribe in Oregon has laws that makes violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members a hate crime, but a new legal toolkit released today by Basic Rights Oregon hopes to change that.
The toolkit contains example wording and ways for tribes create new laws to give rights to LGBT members of their nation, says Se-ah-dom Edmo, coordinator of the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis & Clark College, and one of the lead authors of the toolkit.
“The fact of the matter is that it's unprecedented, it is the first of its kind in the nation,” Edmo says.
The toolkit was released this afternoon in conjunction with a video featuring Native Americans who identify as “Two Spirit,” a term developed by LGBT Native Americans to claim their history in tribal culture. In the video, they describe their struggles as both a sexual and racial minority.
In a release, Basic Rights Oregon says that more than half of Two Spirit/LGBT students experience violence at school because of their sexual orientation; 56 percent of transgender Native Americans have had attempted suicide.
Edmo says she hopes the video and toolkit are helpful to tribal leaders. She says Native American tribes in Oregon have largely been open to changing their laws and other formalized language to include Two Spirit members.
“Expanding the definition of family and who we think of as family is probably the most important thing,” the toolkit does, Edmo says.
Two nations in Oregon do recognize the unions of gay couples. The Coquille tribe near Coos Bay allows gay marriage, while the Umatilla tribe near Pendleton recognizes domestic partnerships.
Edmo says she can only hope that as tribes adopt new laws of acceptance, that the rest of the state may as well. Basic Rights Oregon said last week that it hopes to introduce a statewide gay marriage bill in 2014.