Who will Portland police protect?

June 17, 2010

IN A city as gay-friendly as Portland, you would expect relative safety for the individuals of the community, and that they would enjoy a certain amount of respect. We have an openly gay mayor, Sam Adams, but lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people don't seem to be protected by the police force that he leads.

In a recent article in the Portland Mercury titled "Hate Comes Out of the Closet," the gruesome details of several gay-bashings are described. Both were in public in downtown Portland, which sports a couple drag bars and more gay bars per capita than the rest of the city.

Steps made toward the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" are a welcome win for the LGBTQ community. Still, however, LGBTQ people lack the same basic rights as heterosexuals when it comes to marriage and custody of children. Still, LGBTQ people are afraid to call the police after a gay bashing.

Jeffrey Darling, one of the men brutally assaulted while with friends who were dressed in drag, felt that "dealing with the paperwork and investigators would be more trouble than just letting the incident blow over and...wasn't sure it would do any good." Deputy District Attorney Rod Underhill admitted, while comparing gay bashing to domestic abuse, " There's a sense that if they call the police, the right thing isn't going to happen."

In the gay community, it makes a lot of sense that the police don't seem to be the right solution to fighting the homophobia that confronts us everyday. The police have been used to enforce homophobic legislation and conduct raids on gays bars, terrorizing LGBTQ people in the only place that was a refuge from the oppressive society that labels us as sexual deviants.

If Mayor Adams wanted to stop gay-bashing in Portland, he could move to push for legislation in the state of Oregon to give LGBTQ people the same rights as their straight brothers and sisters--to love, marry, care for and live with the people that matter the most to them, despite their gender or orientation. He would make it so those who have been bashed feel safe calling the police, instead of knowing that it won't make a difference or that the police might be bigots themselves.

It's time for gay politicians to stand up for our rights, instead of just talking about how we deserve them. If Adams really thought we deserved equal treatment, he would act like it.
Camille White-Avian, Portland, Ore.

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