The hidden impacts of the anti-LGBTQ city charter

In 1993, residents of Keizer approved an addition to the city charter that some members of the Keizer City Council are now seeking to eliminate. It’s known as Section 44, and it specifically targets members of the LGBTQ+ community for exclusion when it comes to city practices.  

It states that city officers “shall not make, pass, adopt, or enforce any ordinance, rule, regulation, policy or resolution that extends minority status, affirmative action, quotas, special class status, or any similar concepts, based on homosexuality.”

In addition, it bars the city from using funds to promote homosexuality or express approval of homosexual behavior. The language of the section grants only two minor mercies. It does not allow the city to deny a permit or license based on sexual orientation or preferences and it does not limit libraries from providing materials involving LGBTQ+ issues

The 1993 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 failed, 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. Keizerites approved the measure with a 55 percent majority.

In some ways, the issue was already moot when Keizer approved the addition to the city’s founding document. The Oregon Legislature had already passed a measure making all such local provisions unenforceable. The Legislature 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 more than 25 years. 

Even though state law rendered the charter amendment toothless, seven states – Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – have enacted similar legislation and a research brief by GLSEN, pronounced “glisten,” lays out some of the ways the presence of such language are detrimental to the LGBTQ+ community. 

“In cases where the law prevents any representation of homosexuality, LGBQ students may feel invisible as they are prevented from learning about themselves and their communities,” wrote the authors of the 2018 brief. Those impacts extend to transgender individuals and other non-conforming identities. 

The brief looks specifically at the impacts on youth and how “no promo homo” laws affect their lives. GLSEN studies revealed that LGBTQ+ students were less accepted by their peers, 39.4 percent compared to 51.1 percent in states without such laws. The same youth were more likely to be subjected to verbal or physical harassment. 

When it came to classwork, there were fewer positive representations of LGBTQ+ individuals and students were more likely to be taught about LGBTQ+ people and events in a negative framework. Students also reported less access to books or information on LGBTQ+ topics and an inability to access such information on school computers. 

When it came to teachers, the studies found that they were less likely to receive professional development on LGBTQ+ issues and were less likely to display visual signs of LGBTQ+ support in their classrooms or offices. School administrators were also perceived as less supportive in states with no promotion laws. However, it should be noted that even in states without such laws, only 10.5 percent of faculty received LGBTQ+ trainings and only 13 percent of teachers displayed visual support for the community. 

In another telling statistic, only slightly more than half a percent of teachers in “no promo” states were willing to serves as advisors to gay-straight alliance clubs, but even in states without such laws only five percent of teachers were willing to serve in such a capacity. 

Lastly, even when accounting for demographics, school characteristics, region of the country and state education expenditures, schools in states with “no promo” laws still had more hostile environments and less access to LGBTQ+-supportive resources.