Human Rights Commission

Authority: SRC Chapter 8
Number of members:
Type of appointment:
City Council appointment
Length of term:
3 years

The Human Rights Commission advises the City Council on human rights and relations issues. This Board assists residents by hearing and resolving discrimination complaints and promoting harmony. The Commission also has a subcommittee titled the LGBTQIA+ Intersectional Committee, which addresses LGBTQIA+ rights in our community.


Members of the commission apply and are appointed by the mayor to serve three-year terms. Members should represent the residents of Salem. Members are volunteers and are not paid. The commission elects a chair and vice chair.

Time commitment

The average time commitment is four hours per month. This includes monthly meetings of the full commission; subcommittee and task force meetings; participation in community events; and contributions to special projects.

Community Surveys

Over 500 community members responded to the 2023 Community Belonging Survey conducted in partnership with Western Oregon University. This is the fifth annual survey. Previous surveys were called Discrimination Surveys. The Human Rights Commissions’ Community Engagement Task Force, chaired by Commissioner Lara Midkiff, closely collaborates with Western Oregon University to develop the survey. Read the Executive Summary here.

Other Commission materials:

Other Details 

Meetings are held the second Wednesday of the month from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Special meetings, complaint hearings, and forums may be held as needed.

The Salem Police Department LGBTQIA+ Liaison is Debra Aguilar, Lieutenant. She can be reached at 503-588-6425.

The Mayor/City Manager’s Office LGBTQIA+ Liaison is Gretchen Bennett, Human Rights and Relations/Federal Compliance Manager. She can be reached at 503-540-2371 or 711 for relay.

The Salem Human Rights Commission joined the Mano a Mano Family Center, League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University of Women in holding an event titled Salem Speaks Up! to commemorate the anniversary of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Cultural Competency Noncredit Certificate

People and organizations can increase diversity, equity and inclusion skills through the Chemeketa Community College Cultural Competency Noncredit Certificate.  

“As the Chair for the LGBTQIA+ Intersectional Task Force (now committee), a sub-committee of the Salem Human Rights Commission, I know the importance of learning about systems of oppression, how we unintentionally hold up those systems, and evaluating our own biases," said Kelsey Murray. "Chemeketa Community College's Cultural Competency Certificate gives students the opportunity to learn and explore the various cultures that make up our great communities.”  

“As a commissioner on the City of Salem Human Rights Commission and a member of the LGBTQIA+ Intersectional Rights Taskforce (now committee), I uphold the desire of the City of Salem 'that every individual shall have an equal opportunity to participate fully in the life of the City,'" said Laura Fouts. "To achieve this, discriminatory barriers must be broken down and removed. An important step that individuals can take to partner in this work is to build their own cultural competency. Cultural competence encourages acknowledgement and acceptance of differences in appearance, culture and behavior. Chemeketa Community College’s Cultural Competency Certificate is a great place to start!”

Commission Members


Member Position Appointment Term Term Expires
Hamadi Jackson  Chair 06/02/2022  1st 12/31/2024
Kelsey Murray  Vice Chair 02/24/2021 Partial 12/31/2025
Cathy Ostrand-Ponsioen
02/24/2021  Partial 12/31/2025
    vacant 1st 12/31/2025
Hope Strayer  Youth Position  09/23/2022 1st 12/31/2024
    vacant 2nd 12/31/2025
Gregory Azure
09/23/2022 1st 12/31/2024
Robert Marshall
10/01/2023 1st 12/31/2025
Lisa Novak
01/09/2023 1st


Laura Fouts   06/02/2022 2nd 12/31/2026
Jackie Leung   04/10/2023 1st  12/31/2026
Joaquin Lara Midkiff    04/10/2023   2nd 12/31/2026