Eugene adds 'gender identity' to non-discrimination policy

Eugene adds 'gender identity' to non-discrimination policy »Play Video
Cass Averill

EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene City Council unanimously supported adding the phrase "gender identity" to the city's non-discrimination policy.

Cass Averill is transgender and says the protections aren't special rights but right rights that help him become equal in the community.

"We are pinpointed in society. We are discriminated against actively. The reason why other classes aren't named is because there is privilege there. They aren't actively discriminated against in their day-to-day lives," Averill said.

Bill Sullivan, who fundraises as a performer with the group Damsels Divas and Dames, said he has experienced discrimination when he performs as a female. He welcomed the change.

"It's due. It's come full course, and the progress that's been made has been amazing, countrywide and globally as well," he said.

Both said they feel laws are changing in their favor.

"It's one of those things where the transgender community has really high rates of suicide and hate crime violence," Averill said, "and so a little sense of security can go a long way."

But just because the resolution passed unanimously in City Council doesn't mean there isn't some push back from the community.

The Oregon Family Council points to protection laws conflicting with a Gresham bakery refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding based on religious grounds, or a Portland bar being fined for asking four transgender women to leave.

"It's not an issue of should there or should there not be anti-discrimination laws," said Teresa Harke, Oregon Family Council, "but it's how far reaching they are in the sense that we need to protect both sides who are involved. We need to protect religious freedom as well as people's right to service."

The group plans to support a bill in the legislature giving local businesses an exemption when they feel their faith is in conflict with state law.