Soapbox: Even with 50 years of civil rights, steps still must be taken
Brad Avakian of Beaverton is commissioner of Oregons Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Hard to believe, but 50 years ago it was perfectly legal to discriminate against someone because of their race, religion, gender or national origin.
Discrimination was a fact of life for many Americans. In the workplace, non-white and female employees had no meaningful legal recourse to fight against lower pay, poor working conditions, fewer opportunities and discrimination.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, was a game-changer. It set us on a path toward equality for all Americans. Its a road were still treading, in fits and starts, on our way to a better society. And Im pleased that Oregon continues to help lead the way.
In fact, Oregon passed its civil rights act in 1953, a full 11 years ahead of Congress. And in recent years, we have extended civil rights laws to protect interns on the job and all people based on their sexual orientation.
As we look back on how far weve come, lets not lose sight of the road ahead. One step is for Congress to follow Oregons lead and pass a federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The U.S. Senate has already passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and just last week, the president announced his intention to soon issue an anti-discrimination executive order covering government contractors.
Now, its time to give this basic protection a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As Oregons labor commissioner, its my job to enforce the civil rights laws that give everyone a fair shot at a job, a place to live and access to public places. Its a responsibility that I welcome and take on with all urgency.
You have been a great partner in this effort, and I am grateful for all you do to make Oregon a fairer state one that is ever more accepting of all people.