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Made in Oregon: Homophobia!

A Brief History of Hate in Our State

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TO THIS DAY, Oregon treats its queer communities like second-class citizens, and it should really come as no surprise. Our state has a rich history of rabidly hating LGBTQ people. I hate to call it "homophobia"—because small-minded, bigoted hate is not the same as fear—but for lack of a better term for the barbaric fuckers who continue to oppress us and would sooner do us harm than acknowledge our humanity, I'll call it that for now.

Oregon's first sodomy law showed up in 1853, but the state didn't send anyone to prison for it until 1886, when the witch hunt really took off. In 1912, 68 men were involved in what would become known as the "Vice Clique Scandal." This very public homo-ordeal led to the Oregon Legislature broadening the law to cover all erotic acts other than the missionary position and tripling the maximum penalty for sodomy to 15 years in prison.

The State of Oregon loathed queers with such vigor in the olden days that in 1917 it became legal for the state to castrate or sterilize anyone who was found to be a "sexual pervert" or "moral degenerate" in an effort to "improve" the population. This eugenics law, which was responsible for a total of 2,293 sterilizations (877 males and 1,416 females), was not repealed until 1965. Don't worry, though! The state claims that not a single sex pervert or moral degenerate was sterilized after 1953. At that point the law was only applied to those who were diagnosed as "mentally ill," until it was finally struck down all together in 1983. Whew! So relieving.

So, if you were lucky enough to escape prison on sodomy charges, managed to not have your balls cut off because your neighbor suspected you and your "roommate" of being gay for each other, and dodged being thrown into a mental institution where you were given an ovariotomy and shock treatments for kissing another girl in your dorm room, lucky gay men and women got to live in a state of constant, secret, isolating fear that one of those things (or worse) would become their fate.

What follows are some more of the not-so-highlights from the ugly, unwritten pages of our fine state's history books:

In 1884, our homegrown homophobia spreads, as congress moves to extend all of Oregon's laws to Alaska, passing our heinous sodomy law along to them.

In 1928, 10 males are arrested for consensual, private sexual activity.

In 1930, police begin giving psychological tests to arrestees in an effort to determine abnormal degrees of masculinity or femininity.

In 1935, Governor Charles Martin announced that no prisoner convicted of sodomy would be pardoned unless they were first sexually sterilized. He also asked the state legislature for a broader sterilization law, which was patterned on that of Nazi Germany.

Also in 1935, a new state law was passed that required the names of all "known sexual perverts" to be turned in to the state's board of eugenics for possible sterilization, whether the "perverts" had committed a crime or not.

In 1941, the Oregon attorney general issued the opinion that physicians castrating "sexual perverts" have an absolute immunity from liability.

In 1949, Portland police began an undercover infiltration of local bars to report drag shows and same-sex dancing to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), who would then revoke their liquor licenses.

In 1950, the OLCC starts reinstating revoked gay bar licenses with the provision that they stop hosting drag shows.

In 1953, Oregon joined the parade of states enacting a "psychopathic offender" law that ended up allowing states across the nation to round up homosexuals to "cure" in asylums.

In 1957, Oregon became the second state to enact a law prohibiting anyone convicted of sodomy from teaching in public schools.

Sorry, ladies. In 1961, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the already extremely broad sodomy law would also add "cunnilingus" to the list of forbidden pleasures.

In 1970, our lawmakers added "golden showers" to the list of sodomy law no-nos.

In 1972, Oregon becomes the fourth state to repeal its sodomy law—but a new addition to the code, "accosting for deviant purposes," took its place as a catchall for homophobic prosecution.

In 1973, a gay Oregon father was told by a court that he had to end his relationship with another man in order to keep custody of his two sons, kids he had sole custody of for over a decade.

In the summer of 1980, there were 10 gay bashings reported in Laurelhurst Park during July and August.

In 1988, Measure 8, sponsored by a group of hate-mongers called the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), repealed Governor Neil Goldschmidt's 1987 anti-discrimination executive order that had prohibited discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation.

1992 brought with it Measure 9, the OCA-filed initiative for a constitutional amendment calling for government and schools to recognize gayness as abnormal, and lump homosexuality in with pedophilia, sadism, and masochism.

Between 1992 and 1994, the OCA placed local anti-gay initiatives similar to Measure 9 on the ballots of 29 different Oregon cities and counties.

In 1994, the OCA went on to sponsor another statewide initiative, Measure 13, which "Amends Constitution: Governments Cannot Approve, Create Classifications Based on, Homosexuality." Luckily, this one failed... but only by a 3.1 percent margin.

In 2000, the OCA sponsored its last homo-hating initiative, also named Measure 9, which came with the subtitle: "Prohibits Public School Instruction Encouraging, Promoting, Sanctioning Homosexual, Bisexual Behaviors."

2004 brought with it the final anti-gay initiative to date, Measure 36, sponsored by a pack of losers called the "Defense of Marriage Coalition." The measure was to amend the state's constitution to redefine marriage as being between a man and a woman. The measure passed by a 14 percent margin. (Thanks, neighbors.)

In 2005, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are not legal and refunded same-sex couples the $60 they had spent on their marriage licenses.

In 2010, two drag queens and a gay male are attacked in Portland's entertainment district over Memorial Day weekend. Q Center forms Q Patrol Portland as a result, now in its fourth year of queer community-driven safety.

In 2010, Beaverton teacher Seth Stambaugh was fired for admitting he was gay to a student.

In 2011, two gay men were attacked on the Hawthorne Bridge for holding hands.

In 2012, a group of transgender female patrons were kicked out of a Portland bar just for being trans.

In 2013, a Mt. Hood and a Gresham bakery refused to make cakes for two different same-sex couples.

In 2013, a gay male couple was attacked while walking their dog in Hillsboro.

So that's a short list of major media items from over the years, preserved by local queer historians GLAPN, the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest.

My mind can pretty easily fill in the blanks for the undocumented years, as well as the countless untold stories of our fellow citizens who have suffered, and are still suffering, right here at home.

Help give this story a happy ending in 2014 by getting involved in the fight for equality. The queer community cannot do this by ourselves. We need straight people to stand on the side of right and help us win this battle for our lives and loves. Next election, let's show the world that Oregonians are better than all of this bullshit you just read about.

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