Same-sex marriage in Oregon

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships
  1. Can be registered also in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage

Commencement dates:
  1. To be determined
  2. June 1, 2014 for statewide
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The U.S. state of Oregon has recognized same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions since October 2013, but does not allow them to be performed within the state. Since 2004 the Oregon Constitution has stated: "It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage."1 However, domestic partnerships have been allowed since 2008.


Marriage licenses issued

On March 3, 2004, Multnomah County began issuing licenses to same-sex couples after its attorney issued a legal opinion that such marriages are lawful.2dead linkdead link34 On that day, Multnomah County issued 422 marriage licenses, compared to the 68 it issues on an average day. Local businesses reported an increase in the sales of flowers and other marriage-related services directly related to the beginning of same-sex marriages. According to the 2000 US Census, 3,242 same-sex couples were living in the county.citation needed Neighboring Washington and Clackamas Counties announced that they were studying Multnomah County's legal opinion, but did not plan to immediately follow suit.

At a hearing on March 9, 2004, after the county had issued approximately 1,700 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, County Circuit Judge Dale Koch refused to issue an injunction to stop the county from continuing the process.5 A later study by The Oregonian showed that the first week's 2,026 people from Multnomah County had received such licenses, while about 900 others came from other locations in Oregon, about 490 from the state of Washington, and 30 from other states.citation needed

On March 10, 2004, the State Legislature's Legislative Counsel, Greg Chaimov, issued an opinion that "state law requires a county clerk to license the marriage of a same-sex couple."6 The office of Attorney General Hardy Myers issued an opinion March 12, 2004, after reviewing it with the governor, that concluded that Oregon law prohibits county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; that the Oregon Supreme Court would likely find denying such licenses violates Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution; but that current state practices should not change in anticipation of such a ruling. It also said that the Attorney General's office lacked the authority to order Multnomah County to cease issuing licenses for same-sex marriages.7

On March 15, 2004, Multnomah County commissioners announced that they would continue to issue licenses to same-sex couples.8 On March 16, 2004, following public hearings, Benton County commissioners voted 2-1 to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on March 24, 2004, but they reversed their decision on March 22 after receiving two letters from the attorney general and a phone call threatening the arrest of the county clerk, and decided to issue no marriage license at all pending a decision by the Multnomah County Court.9

With the consent of the state, three same-sex couples sued the state of Oregon in Multnomah County Court, including Mary Li and Rebecca Kennedy, the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license from Multnomah County. At a hearing before Judge Frank Bearden on April 16, 2004, in Li and Kennedy v. State of Oregon, the American Civil Liberties Union and Basic Rights Oregon represented the plaintiffs and the Oregon Department of Justice and the Defense of Marriage Coalition defended the state's position.10 On April 20, 2004, Bearden ordered the county to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, and ordered the state to recognize the 3,022 same-sex marriage licenses already issued. The Oregon state registrar had been holding the completed licenses pending a court decision as to their validity, rather than entering them into the state's records system. Bearden also found that the Oregon Constitution would likely allow some form of marriage rights to same-sex couples, and directed the Legislature to act on the issue within 90 days of the start of its next session. He ruled that if the legislature failed to address the issue within that time, he would allow Multnomah County to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It was understood that both parties would appeal the decision.

On July 9, 2004, the Court of Appeals lifted the temporary ban blocking the registration of the marriage licenses issued by Multnomah County. The state announcing that processing would take a week and began doing so within hours of the court's action.

2004 ballot initiative

On May 21, 2004, the Defense of Marriage Coalition received approval for the language of a proposed initiative to prohibit same-sex marriage. They began circulating petitions to obtain the 100,840 valid signatures needed by July 2 to place the initiative on the November ballot. On November 2, 2004, voters approved by a margin of 57% to 43% Ballot Measure 36, a constitutional amendment defining the marriage of a man and a woman as the only one recognized by the state. The Defense of Marriage Coalition said that Opponents of Measure 36 outspent their group more than 2 to 1.11

Oregon Supreme Court review

On December 15, 2004, the Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments in the appeal of Li and Kennedy v. State of Oregon. Oregon argued that Multnomah County lacked the authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses and that Ballot Measure 36 was retroactive, making the issue of those licenses moot. The Defense of Marriage Coalition argued that Measure 36 was not retroactive, there had been no constitutional violation of the rights of same-sex couples, and Multnomah County did not have the authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses even to remedy a constitutional violation. The ACLU argued that Measure 36 was not retroactive, that the rights of same-sex couples under the Equal Privileges and Immunities clause of the Oregon Constitution had been violated, and that counties are required to remedy perceived constitutional violations.

On April 14, 2005, the Oregon State Supreme Court decided Li and Kennedy v. State of Oregon, ruling that Multnomah County lacked the authority to remedy a perceived violation of the Oregon Constitution and that all marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples were void when issued. The court noted that the Oregon Constitution had since been amended to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and it therefore declined to rule as to whether or not same-sex couples had any rights under the Equal Privileges and Immunities clause of the Oregon Constitution.12


In February 2013, Basic Rights Oregon, a LGBT rights organization, formed the group Oregon United for Marriage to put an initiative on the ballot in November 2014 to provide for the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.13 The initiative would replace the state's constitutional amendment restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples with the right of all persons to marry without respect to gender.14 On July 26, 2013, the petition campaign to get the required signatures was launched.1516 By early December 2013, the 116,284 minimum required signatures had been reached, but signature collection will continue.1718

The campaign is endorsed by the Democratic Party of Oregon19 and various major businesses.2021

Federal Lawsuit

On October 15, 2013, two couples, a pair of unmarried lesbians and two men already married in Canada, filed a lawsuit, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, in U.S. district court in Eugene, Oregon, challenging the Oregon constitution's ban on same-sex marriage.22 It made Oregon the 20th state to have a federal lawsuit challenging its ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor (2013) invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act.23 Two more couples filed another same-sex marriage case on October 15, 2013, with this latter case captioned Rummell and West v. Kitzhaber.

On January 22, 2014, Judge Michael McShane consolidated the two lawsuits and scheduled oral arguments for April 23.24 On February 20, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum told the court that she believed "that performing same-sex marriages in Oregon would have no adverse effect on existing marriages, and that sexual orientation does not determine an individual's capacity to establish a loving and enduring relationship". She found it impossible to defend the state's "under any standard of review" and her office would no longer defend the ban in court. The plaintiffs in both Geiger and Rummell have filed motions asking for summary judgment; this is used in cases where there are no material issues of fact remaining for trial, and a fast resolution is desired.25

The court heard oral argument on motions for summary judgment in the consolidated lawsuit on April 23, 2014. While all parties present support same-sex marriage, Judge McShane questioned whether Oregon voters should get a another say on the issue, since they approved the amendment defining marriage; and whether to stay the ruling and await guidance from marriage equality cases pending in the U.S. courts of appeal, or to implement the ruling immediately. The court scheduled another oral arguments session for May 13, 2014, where the National Organization for Marriage, an organization that opposes same-sex marriage, will try to qualify for intervention in the case, as all current parties agree as to the issues. Hence, any ruling will not come until the May 13 hearing has concluded.2627

Recognition of out-of-state marriages

On October 16, 2013, based on an opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice, the state's Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan announced that Oregon would begin recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.28

Oregon Same-Sex Marriage Amendment (2014)

The Oregon Same-Sex Marriage Amendment may appear on the November 4, 2014 statewide ballot allowing same sex marriages to be performed in the state.29

Economic Impact

If same-sex couples were allowed to marry in Oregon, an April 2014 study by UCLA's Williams Institute found that same-sex marriage would add $47.3 million to Oregon's economy during the first three years.3031 The study estimates same-sex marriages would also add 468 new jobs to Oregon’s economy.

Public opinion

A June 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 48% of Oregon voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 42% thought it should be illegal and 11% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 76% of Oregon voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 43% supporting same-sex marriage, 33% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 22% favoring no legal recognition and 1% not sure.32

A June 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 46% of Oregon voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 45% thought it should be illegal and 9% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 74% of Oregon voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 44% supporting same-sex marriage, 30% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 23% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.33

A December 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 54% of Oregon voters thought same-sex marriage should be allowed, while 40% thought it should not be allowed. 5% were not sure.34

According to an April 2013 DHM Research poll, 49% of Oregon voters supported changing the Oregon constitution to allow same sex marriage, 42% were opposed and 9% were undecided.3536

A February 2014 poll released by Oregon United For Marriage showed that 55% of the state supported same sex marriage while 41% were opposed.37

See also


  1. ^ "Article XV, Section 5a". Oregon Constitution. WikiSource. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Gay Couples Marry As Portland Ore. Says 'I Do'". Archived from the original on 2006-03-09. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Judge upholds ban: A Marion County judge rejects constitutional challenges to last year's Ballot Measure 36". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  5. ^ Parker, Jim; Abe Estimada (March 8, 2004). "Multnomah Co. judge refuses to halt same-sex marriages". KGW TV. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  6. ^ Gregory A. Chaimov, Legislative Counsel (March 8, 2004). "Same-Sex Marriage: letter to Senator Kate Brown (Senate Democratic Leader)" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  7. ^ Oregon Department of Justice: March 12, 2004, accessed November 1, 2012
  8. ^ Law, Steve (16 March 2004). "Same-sex weddings continue; validity in doubt". Salem Statesman Journal. Archived from the original on 2006-01-25. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  9. ^ [1]dead link
  10. ^ [2]dead link
  11. ^ Fortmeyer, John. "Christian voters' impact in Oregon still under review". Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  12. ^ "Mary Li and Rebecca Kennedy et al. v. State of Oregon et al.". Oregon Judicial Department. April 14, 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  13. ^ "Backers of gay marriage will take their cause to Oregon ballot in 2014". Oregon Live. February 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Oregon United for Marriage Turns in 2,000 Sponsorship Signatures on the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative". Oregon United for Marriage. February 19, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Oregon United Launches Petition Campaign to Put Marriage on the Ballot". Human Rights Campaign. July 24, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Oregon Says I Do". 
  17. ^ Zheng, Yuxing (30 August 2013). "Marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage advocates say federal decisions strengthen 2014 Oregon ballot initiative efforts". Oregon Live. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "Oregon Campaign For Gay Marriage Hits Signature Goal". On Top Magazine. December 8, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Democratic Party of Oregon Endorses Marriage Equality Campaign". Democratic Party of Oregon. June 14, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Intel, on pending Oregon ballot measure: We support marriage equality". Oregon Live. October 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ Anna Staver (November 19, 2013). "Nike gives $280,000 to support same-sex marriage in Oregon". Statesman Journal. 
  22. ^ Erica Nochlin (October 15, 2013). "Lawsuit filed to overturn Oregon's same-sex marriage ban". KATU news. 
  23. ^ James Nichols (October 16, 2013). "Portland Trailblazers Back Gay Marriage, Becoming First NBA Team To Do So". Huffington Post. 
  24. ^ "Judge consolidates Oregon gay-marriage lawsuits". Washington Post. January 22, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014. 
  25. ^ Johnson, Chris (February 20, 2014). "Oregon AG won’t defend marriage ban in court". Washington Blade. Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  26. ^ Mapes, Jeff (23 April 2014). "Gay marriage: Judge Michael McShane provides little clue in how he will rule on Oregon case". The Oregonian. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  27. ^ Mapes, Jeff (22 April 2014). "Judge won't rule in Oregon gay marriage case until at least May 14 while he decides on intervenor". The Oregonian. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  28. ^ Damewood, Andrea (October 16, 2013). "Oregon To Recognize Marriages of Gay Couples Wed Out of State". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Oregon Same-Sex Marriage Amendment (2014)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  30. ^ "Study estimates same-sex marriage would boost Oregon economy by $47 million over 3 years". Statesman Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  31. ^ Fitzgerald, E.G. "Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Oregon". UCLA. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  32. ^ Public Policy Polling: Oregon in favor of legal gay marriage, Kitzhaber Solid
  33. ^ Public Policy Polling: Oregon divided on gay marriage
  34. ^ "Kitzhaber, Merkley lead potential foes". 12/7/2012. Public Policy Polling. 
  35. ^ DHM Research survey
  36. ^ Poll: Oregon voters back PERS restructuring; support dropping for expansion of gun background checks
  37. ^ "An incredible day for freedom to marry in Oregon". Oregon United For Marriage. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 

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