This article gives the history of Corvallis from an LGBT+ lens, diving into local laws, organizations, and individual activists & experts.
Laws affecting queer individuals in Corvallis were mostly anti-gay laws, a few of which were sponsored by the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance. They tried to pass a series of laws encouraging the government to show disapproval of homosexuality, both through public spending and through public education.
Organizations within Corvallis, like After 8, encourage political activism and support for LGBT+ individuals. After 8 was an organization in response to Measure 8, a ballot measure that took away protections for queer people. It was formed to raise awareness and try to get the protections back. More modern organizations, like PFLAG of Corvallis/Albany and PRIDE Corvallis, tend to mainly serve as organizations that create safe spaces for queer individuals to meet and talk.
Various activists and experts involved with the queer community of Corvallis are also involved with OSU and/or their queer studies programs. Multiple experts are involved in preserving and adding information to queer history archives at OSU or on their own personal blogs.
Local Laws Affecting Queer Individuals
1987 Executive Order 87-20 Governor Neil Goldschmidt signed this executive order that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in the executive branch of the state government.
1988 Measure 8 This measure repealed Governor Goldschmidt’s executive order. It also created a new law that allowed state officials a right of taking into account sexual orientation when making decisions. The measure also kept state officials from doing anything about reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It passed.
1992 Measure 9 This measure did not pass, although it created a lot of conflict between the LGBT+ community and the organization who was pushing it, the Oregon Citizens Alliance. This measure stated that the Oregon government may not promote or encourage homosexuality with their money or property. The measure also referred to homosexuality as abnormal and perverse, along with pedophilia, sadism, and masochism.
1994 Measure 13 This measure which was also backed by the Oregon Citizens Alliance was similar to measure 9, earning it the nickname “Son of 9”. It stated that governments may not create classifications based on homosexuality or spend public funds in such a way that expresses approval of homosexuality. The measure was defeated. Kristy Wise of The Commuter stated that the measure "has nothing to do with protecting children, and everything to do with legalizing discrimination," as she warned people not to be fooled by the title, "The Minority Status and Child Protection Act".
2000 Measure 9 The last state-wide measure backed by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, measure 9 also failed. It was to prohibit public schools from encouraging or promoting homosexual and bisexual behaviors in their instruction. Benton County overwhelmingly voted no on this measure. There were many activists and voices telling people to vote no on 9. A Crescent Valley High School student, Emily Panter, wrote to the Corvallis Gazette-Times that she believed that "almost every student I know does not want Measure 9 to pass". Many of the arguments against Measure 9 included the fact that it would prevent students from being educated on HIV/AIDS.
2004 Measure 36 This measure, sponsored by the Defense of Marriage Coalition, stated that only a marriage between a man and a woman would be legally recognized. The measure was passed by 13%. The measure was only defeated in Benton and Multnomah counties. Rebekah Kassell, the communications director for an activist group called "Basic Rights Oregon", stated "there is a fear to wear a button (against 36) to the grocery store, or talk to their neighbors about it," when referring to how Corvallis residents seemed to feel about the measure passing.
After 8 - 1984-2002
Co-founded by Karuna Neustadt, this organization was created in response to ballot measure 8 of 1988. A group of women got together to work to improve the conditions for queer individuals through political activism.
PFLAG Corvallis/Albany - Unknown-Present
PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) became a membership organization in 1993. It is unclear when exactly the Corvallis/Albany chapter was created. This organization is a support group that allows local LGBT+ individuals and their families/allies to connect with and support one another.
OSU Pride Center - 2001-Present
Previously titled the “Queer Resource Center”, the Pride Center was originally just a space in the Women’s Center in 2000. In 2001 it got the funding it needed to become its own center. The center expanded over time and was eventually moved to its own building in 2004, the same year it switched to “The Pride Center”. This organization functions as a safe space for LGBT+ students, as well as provides resources like a library of queer works and a gender-neutral bathroom. The staff at the center are trained to provide support for LGBT+ individuals in need.
PRIDE Corvallis - 2009-Present
PRIDE Corvallis organizes events with the goal of uniting the local LGBT+ community, such as meetings, potlucks, and pride celebrations.
Rainbow in the Clouds - 2011-Present
They are a non-profit organization that meets the first Friday of every month. They often host fundraisers to raise money for other LGBT+ themed organizations.
Haus of Dharma - 2014-Present
Dharma Mirza founded Haus of Dharma in 2014. The organization plans drag shows at various locations in Corvallis.
- Jubilate! The Women's Choir of Corvallis - 1994-Present
This women's choir was founded by Betty Busch in response to Measure 9 as a celebration of it being voted down. Busch stated "There was a kind of jubilance about that (vote)". She formed a lesbian choir because she was "looking for a more positive way to form community in Corvallis".
Activists & Experts
Kraemer contributed to the preservation of queer history in Corvallis, and specifically at OSU. He started a blog dedicated to helping him preserve this history, tackling subjects such as “History of gay student groups at Oregon State University” and “Gay lifestyles at Oregon 'Straight' 1984”.
Co-founder of After 8, Neustadt was involved in political activism to improve the treatment and lives of gays and lesbians in Benton County.
Dharma Mirza is a trans-woman and drag queen in Corvallis. Mirza founded Haus of Dharma, a local organization and drag show community. She uses her drag to promote political awareness and support for trans individuals. She also promotes awareness of the way that trans people are viewed by the drag community and how she believes that it can be transphobic.
Professor Driskill is a faculty member at OSU who is involved with the queer community. They have been involved in creating the curriculum for Queer Studies programs at OSU, and they are in the process of researching more of the queer history at OSU and in Corvallis.
Fernández is the co-founder of the OSU Queer Archives, a set of archives within the OSU library that documents queer history within the college and within Corvallis. She and Bradley Boovy founded these archives in 2014 and are still working to add to them.
Boovy is the other co-founder of the OSU Queer Archives, along with being a professor of German and Women, Gender, & Sexuality studies. He studies the history of sexuality at OSU.
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