Oregon Court of Appeals says workplace discrimination
against gay and lesbian people is illegal
Statement by David J. Fidanque Executive Director, ACLU of Oregon
December 9, 1998
With Wednesday‚s release of the decision in Tanner v. OHSU, the Oregon Court of Appeals became the first court in the nation to decide that government is constitutionally required to recognize domestic partnerships. As important as that holding is, the decision‚s importance goes even further.
The Court of Appeals has also made it clear that current Oregon law prohibits any employer--whether public or private--from discriminating in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. That makes Oregon the 11th state to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in employment and the first to do so on the basis of state law prohibiting gender discrimination.
In addition, the Court held the Oregon Bill of Rights requires public agencies--such as OHSU or local governments and school districts--to provide benefits to the domestic partners of their gay and lesbian employees if they provide benefits to the spouses of married employees.
The importance of these three aspects of the decision carry well beyond the actual parties in this case. This decision completely changes the legal landscape of employment law in Oregon and represents a tremendous victory for all Oregonians who have worked hard to provide legal protection on the basis of sexual orientation for all Oregon workers.
The impact of this case will reach well beyond the borders of Oregon. For the first time, an appellate court has said that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional. While Oregon courts may be the first to do so, we are confident that other courts will follow Oregon‚s lead.
Links of interest:
National ACLU Press Release
Oregonian article 12/10/98
New York Times 12/10/98