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Cleaning up language

From time to time, laws on the books for many decades need to be cleaned up to reflect changing attitudes toward race, gender and sexual orientation, to list three examples. This housekeeping is largely symbolic, but symbols have power, and removing the now-offensive language makes an important statement.

The Oregon House of Representatives this week voted almost unanimously to remove anti-LGBTQ laws dating back to the 1850s. The bill specifies that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is not a physical or mental impairment. We say almost unanimously because two members of the House felt compelled to vote against the bill, for reasons that are either unknown or hard to follow.

At a time when same-sex marriage is legal nationwide and public opinion has shifted from 27 percent supporting gay marriage in 1996 to 67 percent in favor last year, removing language calling same-sex attraction a mental disorder is long overdue. House Bill 2587 also removes the terms “transvestism” and “transsexualism” from state statutes.

Republican Reps. Mike Nearman of Independence and Werner Reschke of Klamath Falls voted no. Reschke did not respond to requests for comment, so his reasons are unknown. Nearman said in an email to The Associated Press that the bill’s supporters claim the measure is just changing language. He didn’t explain what he meant by that.

Removing outdated language and upholding the rights of all Oregonians to equal treatment under the law is an important statement. It’s unfortunate these two legislators chose not to recognize that.