The city of Portland, Oregon has officially adopted civil rights protections specifically for atheists.
As we noted a couple of weeks ago, the Portland City Council had a proposed ordinance on the table to add “non-religious” to the list of protected classes under city law. While “religion” is already protected, that word didn’t make it clear that non-religious people were included in the mix. This ordinance would make that protection explicit.
The ordinance itself included a description of how this proposal came to be and explained how local activists requested the change:
The proposal was voted on earlier today, and with a unanimous vote, Portland is now the second city with the ordinance. (A similar one passed in Madison, Wisconsin in 2015.)
The community group Freedom From Religion Foundation — Portland Area Chapter (FFRF) initiated the proposal to change City Code Chapter 23.01 through conversations with Commissioner Fritz and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU). Commissioner Fritz recommended FFRF connect with the Human Rights Commission (HRC). Subsequently, FFRF President Cheryl Kolbe spoke during the public comment period at an HRC meeting. After reviewing the proposal, conducting their own research, and consulting legal and public policy leadership from the American Atheists national organization, the HRC voted to support the change.
The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday for Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s plan to extend the protections against religious discrimination in the city’s civil rights code to people who do not believe in a god or gods. Mayor Ted Wheeler was absent for the vote.
“The proposed changes to our civil rights code may seem like a minor tweak, but they are significant for the many many Portlanders who identify as non-religious,” Fritz said. “Remarkably, I have not received one email against this proposal.”
There shouldn’t be any opposition to this, since atheists aren’t asking for anything that religious people don’t have already. But it’s nice to see complete support from the elected officials. This is an important victory, both symbolically as well as for anyone who might have used the original law’s vagueness to push back against equal rights for atheists.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)