City to form charter review committee

The Keizer City Council took a giant leap toward removing language from the city charter that alienates members of the community who identify as something other than heterosexual.

As part of goal-setting talks, councilors set a short-term goal of establishing a charter review committee to eliminate pieces of Section 44, which includes anti-LGBTQ language in the city charter, and make other adjustments as recommended by the committee.

Mayor Cathy Clark said every city councilor had been contacted at some point in the past several months since Keizertimes drew attention to issue in September 2018. But, changing the charter is easier said than done.

“The state can’t remove it by a council, only the voters can. The council does not have the authority on our own to make this change,” Clark said. “We can work with the community to get this on the ballot and take care of it appropriately.”

Section 44 of the Keizer city charter was approved by voters in 1993 and would still be in effect had the state legislature not rendered it moot.

City staff will return to council with a resolution to form a charter review committee and the goal is to place revised language on the ballot in 2020.

Waiting until next year will keep the cost of engaging voters on the matter to a minimum. 

Section 44, which was approved by Keizer voters in 1993, prohibited the city from: extending minority status to individuals based on sexual orientation and expending funds that “promote homosexuality or express approval of homosexual behavior.”

The effort to pass the measure in Keizer was a last-ditch attempt by members of the No Special Rights Committee and Oregon Citizens Alliance to put in place such language wherever they could. After several attempts to have similar measures passed statewide, the groups targeted a more limited number of individual cities and counties where they thought the ideas might gain traction. Keizer was on the short list and didn’t disappoint the idea’s supporters when it hit the ballot box. Voters approved the measure with a 55 percent majority.

Councilor Roland Herrera remembered the era with some disdain.

“This always disturbed me. This was wrong back then, I was personally involved in fighting it and I was disappointed in Keizer at the time,” Herrera said.

The Oregon Legislature had already passed a measure making all such local provisions unenforceable. Legislators returned to the issue in 2017 with a statute putting any local government that tried to enforce on the hook for court challenges. Despite the neutering, the language has remained in the city’s founding document for 25 years.

Councilor Dan Kohler delivered one of the strongest rebukes of Section 44 calling it a “blemish on the quality of the city. Keizer is a place where anyone … should be able to thrive. [Section 44] is inconsistent with the Keizer way.”