2012 Equality Advocate Award Recipient
Brad Avakian, Oregon Labor Commissioner
Throughout his career, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian has worked tirelessly to expand opportunity and ensure equality for all Oregonians.
Early in his career, as an employment and civil rights attorney, Brad gave voice to workers who were seeking fair wages, better working conditions and freedom from discrimination in the workplace. He distinguished himself as an equality champion by bringing anti-discrimination lawsuits based on sexual orientation at a time when there were no laws prohibiting this type of unfair treatment.
Brad was elected to the Oregon House in 2002, and was a leader during the 2005 effort to make Oregon the first state in the nation to combine non-discrimination and relationship rights in one piece of legislation. Despite tireless work and creative problem solving, the legislation did not prevail that year. Brad refused to give up and continued to build a coalition around the legislation. In 2007, while in the Oregon Senate, he helped ensure that both the landmark non-discrimination bill (Oregon Equality Act) and the domestic partnership bill (Oregon Family Fairness Act) were passed and signed into law.
Since 2008, Brad has served as head of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), where the state’s top Civil Rights Enforcement division is housed. He also established the Oregon Counsel on Civil Rights.
As Labor Commissioner, Brad convened state agencies to ensure the Oregon Equality/Family Fairness Acts were being applied fairly throughout state government. After the review, BOLI issued a report that both praised the advancements made through the new policies and acknowledged that domestic partnership still falls short of marriage equality. He created a “Know Your Rights” brochure, which is distributed to every couple receiving an Oregon Registered Domestic Partnership, highlighting important legal facts about the law.
Under his leadership, BOLI partnered with National Center for Lesbian Rights to secure grant funds to provide outreach and education to Oregon’s LGBT community about housing rights and non-discrimination protections that exist under state and federal law.
Basic Rights Education Fund is proud to honor Brad Avakian with the Equality Advocate Award in recognition of his leadership to advance equality for gay and transgender Oregonians!
Raised in Washington County, Brad attended Beaverton’s public schools, and is a graduate of Oregon State University and Lewis & Clark Law School. He and his wife Debbie have raised two children, Nathan and Claire.