Board proclaims June Pride Month in Multnomah County

June 12, 2015

Giovanni Blair McKenzie tells the Board concerns about LGBTQ youth.

In a presentation that highlighted Multnomah County’s long history of promoting equity for the LGBTQ community, the Board of County Commissioners declared June 2015 as Pride Month in Multnomah County.

The board’s proclamation Thursday affirmed its commitment to inclusion for  LGBTQ members of this community, as it has every June since 1992.

“This commission has a great history,’’ said George Nicola, who wrote the state’s first gay civil rights legislation in 1973. “So thank you for your support.’’

A year of historic steps

It was a year of significant strides, said Donna “Scotty’’ Scott, including marriage equality in Oregon, transgender healthcare for people on the Oregon Health Plan and the ascension of the first openly LGBTQ governor in the nation, Gov. Kate Brown.  

Scott, the co-chair of Prism, Multnomah County’s LGBTQ employee resource program, said Brown also signed into law a ban on conversion therapy, making Oregon the third state to ban the controversial practice.
“This was lifesaving legislation,’’ Scott said. “Too many of our young people end their lives because of too much pain and suffering.’’

Scott lauded the county for entering the second phase of the gender neutral restroom project, which assures gender neutral facilities in all new county buildings, including the planned new County Courthouse.

And the county recently began collecting data on both ethnicity, disability and LGBTQ making “which I believe, is the first agency to do so,’’

Still, Scott told the board there is more work to be done internally: a survey of 98 county employees,found that more than half said they still fear discrimination in the workplace.

As a result, the trans-inclusive workplace specialists will be working with Marissa Madrigal, chief operating officer, and Ben Duncan, of the Office of Diversity and Equity, to ensure culturally competent services.

Remembering Gretchen Kafoury

The annual proclamation included tributes to former Multnomah County Commissioner and city leader Gretchen Kafoury. Chair Deborah Kafoury’s mother died March 13 at age 72.

“Gretchen Kafoury was an ally long before it was the norm, before it was cool,’’Scott said. “Gretchen was an exemplary example of support and this weekend will be honored by Pride Northwest members of Prism who will wear pins over our hearts in remembrance of her.’’

George Nicola said Gretchen Kafoury, and her former husband, Stephen Kafoury, (the Chair’s father) were political mentors. Nicola first approached the county commission in the 1970s asking the board to ban discrimination in county hiring. The effort failed until Kafoury joined the board in 1985 and within three months, won its adoption.

Much work ahead for LGBTQ people of color, and in rural areas

Karol Collymore of the Equity Foundation urged the board to also remember transgender equity and LGBTQ people in rural areas.

Giovanni Blair McKenzie, a former Multnomah County intern in the Chair’s Office and the founder and director of Queer Intersections, told the board that despite Oregon’s major progress, LGBTQ people of color still suffer.

“These youth feel invisible and they feel powerless, we are criminalized, we are told by the greater community we are ugly, weak and have zero value,’’ he said.

They are also politically underrepresented. And that there are many families, countries and communities that refuse to accept and embrace LGBTQ people.

“For youth the who are facing homelessness, violence,and rejection, simply because of who they are, Pride Month is our reminder of the work we still have to do.’’  

Commissioner Jules Bailey thanked the presenters for "reminding us how much we still need to do."

“Keep holding our feet to the fire so we can do the maximum for our communities,’’ said Commissioner Loretta Smith.