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Gay rights foes simply intolerant

There is no good reason to deny the protections all others enjoy

Opponents of a bill in the Oregon Legislature to ban discrimination against gays in the workplace and in housing have dredged up the usual list of suspect arguments. The truth is, they believe that discrimination against gays should be allowed.

This increasingly resembles an argument from a bygone era. Gay people are part of the fabric of our society, and in most workplaces and social settings, the issue of their sexual orientation is, well, not an issue.

But there remains an undeniable intolerance in certain circles, which unfortunately includes conservative political circles. The 21-7 vote in favor of Senate Bill 2 by the Oregon Senate last week suggests the intolerance is fading, but opponents of the idea clearly are not willing to go down without resurrecting the same dubious arguments. Those arguments include:

The anti-discrimination measure establishes gays as a "protected class" of people. Nonsense &

8212; the measure says no one, gay, straight or otherwise, can be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. We all belong to a protected class of people, thanks to documents like the U.S. Constitution.This measure does not protect religious institutions that oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. That argument conveniently ignores the following portion of the bill: Section — (4): "Nothing in this chapter prohibits a bona fide church or sectarian religious institution from taking any action with respect to employment, housing or the use of facilities based on a bona fide religious belief about sexual orientation."People who rent rooms in their homes would be required to rent them to gay couples, even if that conflicted with their beliefs. Not true; the measure specifically exempts landlords who live in the same single-family residence in which the room is being rented.

One of the seven objecting senators, Bruce Starr of Hillsboro, said there was no reason for the law, because gays as a group earn more, are better educated and live in better homes. Following that reasoning to its illogical conclusion suggests that wealthy Ph.D.s should not be given constitutional protections in the state of Oregon.

And that would be no less an injustice than denying gays the rights that everyone in the state should enjoy. Now they don't, because if you're a gay man or woman, you can be fired from your job or denied housing for the simple reason that you are gay. That's a license for intolerance.

Gay people are people. All people deserve equal protection under the law. Senate Bill 2 would provide that protection and the Oregon House of Representatives should move quickly to ensure that it happens.