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Oregon Leaders Promise to Fight Proposed Federal Rollback of Transgender Protections

House speaker Tina Kotek and a spokesperson for Sen. Jeff Merkley were among those to address the Trump Administration's latest memo.

Portland-area political leaders and advocates say protections for transgender Oregonians are not immediately imperiled by the Trump Administration's latest memo—which, the New York Times recently reported, says gender should be narrowly defined as either male or female according to determinations made at birth.

Advocates gathered at a press conference today to speak out against the threat of striped recognition and protections for transgender Americans.

During the press conference today, led by statewide LGBTQ advocacy group Basic Rights Oregon, political leaders offered pledges to uphold Oregon's progressive anti-discrimination policies.

"We will not let the Trump Administration tear down our community," House Speaker Tina Kotek said, "and for those right now who are very scared about what this means, please know that my colleagues and I in the Oregon Legislature will do everything we can to protect you."

Kotek denounced the proposal as anti-science and says it is a dangerous attempt at fear-mongering. She also highlighted Oregon's passage of comprehensive non-discrimination protections against gender identity and sexual orientation more than a decade ago.

Last year, Oregon passed legislation simplifying name change and gender amendment processes on birth certificates. It also became the first state to offer a third gender maker, X for not specified, on state identification cards.

Related: Starting Next Week, Oregon Will Let You Change the Name and Gender on Your Birth Certificate in Just Two Easy Steps

In state courts, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has been successfully fighting lawsuits that seek to overturn anti-discrimination guidelines in state school districts.

In July, for example, a federal judge dismissed a case that would have prohibited students in Dallas, Ore. from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

Related: Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Prohibiting Students at Oregon School From Using Bathroom That Aligns With Their Gender Identity

ACLU of Oregon's legal director, Mat dos Santos, promised "the ACLU in Oregon and across the country will fight back against any efforts to use transgender people as political pawns and will continue to seek full equality for transgender and non binary people."

In a statement read by staffer Johnell Bell, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said, "President Trump's effort to paint these Americans as the 'other' is a dangerous endorsement of bigotry and hate. But he has targeted the wrong community."

He continued to note that he would do what he could to "support our LGBTQ community, including continuing to push for the Equality Act"—that is, federal legislation Merkley wrote to ban discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.

Along with legislators' pledges to protect transgender Oregonians, trans advocate Trystan Reese called for Portlanders to be vocal in support of trans rights and to vote for candidates who promise to uphold LGBTQ protections.

"I call on our lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and allied communities to step up," he said. "Not because we are weak, but because we are tired […] This is both a distraction from the midterms and an issue worth fighting for."