History of the Law

A Brief Review of Oregon’s Hate and Bias Laws

In 2023, the Oregon legislature passed HB 3443 », which further updates Oregon’s laws, expanding protections and legal options for bias crime and bias incident victims. In brief, starting January 1, 2024:

  • Bias crime victims have additional protections in housing, including protections against housing discrimination under ORS 90.449 », and eligibility to break a lease without penalty to seek safety under ORS 90.453 ».
  • Victims of bias crimes have expanded protections at work, including protected leave under ORS 659A.272 » and reasonable safety accommodations while on the job under ORS 659A.290 », and eligibility for Paid Leave Oregon to seek safety under ORS 657B.010(22) » and ORS 659A.283 ».
  • Victims of charged felony Bias Crime cases can request to consult with prosecutors regarding plea negotiations under ORS 147.512 ».
  • Release assistance officers and courts are required to include no contact orders for bias crime defendants while in custody under ORS 135.247 ».
  • Bias crime and bias incident victims are eligible for the state’s Address Confidentiality Program under ORS 192.820 ».

In 2021, the Oregon legislature passed SB 398», which created a new law now under ORS 163.191 » called Intimidation by Display of a Noose. This is a criminal law that makes it unlawful at the A misdemeanor level to knowingly place a noose on public or private property intending to cause fear of imminent bodily harm to another person.

Also in 2021, the Oregon legislature passed HB 3041», which clarified existing anti-discrimination protections by adding “gender identity” to all Oregon laws that used “sexual orientation” in the text of the law.  Under the updated laws, gender identity is now listed as a distinct protected class in Oregon’s housing, employment, public accommodations, education, health care and law enforcement profiling laws.

In 2019, the Oregon legislature passed SB 577 », which updated 17 different Oregon laws and created new hate/bias laws in Oregon. SB 577 resulted from Attorney General Rosenblum’s May 2018 task force to study hate-motivated crimes and January 2019 statewide listening tour to hear directly from community members about the system gaps experienced by victims of hate and bias. In brief, SB 577 updated following laws:

  • The crime of Intimidation has been renamed Bias Crime. Bias crimes are still codified under ORS 166.155 and ORS 166.165.
  • Felony Bias Crime no longer requires 2 or more perpetrations to target a victim.
  • Gender identity is now a distinct protected class under Oregon bias crime and bias incident. A full list of Oregon’s protected classes under Oregon’s bias crime/bias incident laws can be found here.
  • A new legal term called a Bias Incident (a non-criminal hostile expression of animus targeting someone based on their actual or perceived protected class) was created under ORS 147.380 ».
  • This new law created a victim-centered Bias Response Hotline for anyone to confidentially report a hate/bias crime or bias incident and receive support and learn about their options.
  • The new law requires law enforcement to refer all victims of bias incidents to qualifying local victim support services.
  • The new law streamlines data collection about bias occurring in Oregon, and requires the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to report annually on statewide hate and bias data.

In 2011, the legislature added disability as a protected class ». This change went into effect January 1, 2012.

In 2007, the legislature expanded the definition of sexual orientation » as “an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.” The reality of this definition is that gender identity was included as a protected status, but without accurately naming or identifying this aspect of a person’s identity. This change went into effect January 1, 2008.

In 1989, the legislature added sexual orientation as a protected class ». At the time, sexual orientation was defined as “heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.” In addition, changes to the law in 1989 also allowed prosecutors to charge perpetrators with Intimidation if they acted because of their perception of the victim’s protected class, and not only because of the victim’s actual protected class.

Back in 1981, Oregon passed the nation’s first hate crime laws under Chapter 166, then called Oregon’s criminal Intimidation laws », protecting those targeted based on actual (not perceived) race, color, religion, or national origin. At this time, felony Intimidation could only be charged if 2 or more perpetrators targeted the victim.