Oregon Senate Vote Puts Sikh American Community One Step Away From Making History SALDEF applauds Oregon Senate on vote to repeal religious dress ban, Encourages Oregon Governor to sign bill Washington D.C., February 24, 2009 -- Late yesterday afternoon, the Oregon State Senate, voted 21-9 in favor of Oregon House Bill 3686, which when enacted will allow public school teachers to wear religious dress, including the Sikh dastaar (turban), the Muslim hijab, and the Jewish yarmulke, while serving as public school teachers. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation's oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, commends the Oregon Senate for passing this important bill by such a wide margin, following the landslide victory in the Oregon House on February 13th. SALDEF urges Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski to sign the bill into law quickly. To read coverage about the Senate vote yesterday, please click here and click here. In the summer of 2009, SALDEF initiated an historic campaign on behalf of the Sikh American community to overturn ORS 342.650. Since then, SALDEF has been working to publicize this discriminatory legislation and repeal it. The bill, when enacted, will undo ORS 342.650, an Oregon law that effectively forbids Sikh Americans, and all other individuals who wear religious dress in accordance with their faith, from working as public school teachers. -- Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt, after yesterday's historic vote "Today in Oregon we took a big step forward to equality in our State. The coalition that came together to pass this legislation crossed all lines of religion, race and culture," said Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt after the bill passed yesterday. "It was inspiring to see national groups like SALDEF join with local groups like the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon to achieve this great victory for tolerance and religious freedom in our state. No longer will any law supported by the KKK be the law in our state." Over the past several months, SALDEF has been working closely with Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt, along with a broad coalition of groups and individuals to engage in outreach to Oregon legislators, provide testimony at House hearings, and mobilize community support for the Lobby Day held on February 10th at the State House in Salem. "We commend the Oregon Senate for this historic vote to finally bury from their state's laws the unfortunate legacy of bigotry from the KKK in the 1920s," said SALDEF Managing Director Kavneet Singh. "This is also a huge step for both the Sikh American community in Oregon and across the country. Sikh Americans partnered and mobilized with a truly interfaith coalition behind a bill that was supportive of and that protected people of all faiths. We commend our local community and coalition partners for supporting the passage of this repeal and upholding religious freedom for all." What's Next The bill will now head back to the Oregon House for a vote on the minor changes and amendments that were added by the Senate Rules Commitee last weekend. The final legislation will then head to the Governor's desk for his signature of the bill into Law. The final passing of this bill will allow Oregon public school teachers to wear religious clothing that is mandated by their faiths beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. To stay up to date with the developments of this legislation, please visit our website or click here for information about the campaign and to see a timeline of this history making campaign to change this archaic law in Oregon.