Same-sex marriage in Oregon
|Legal recognition of
|†Note: Not yet in effect|
The U.S. state of Oregon does not recognize same-sex marriage. 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." However, domestic partnership are allowed since 2008.
Same-sex marriages in 2004 
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. 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. 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. 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.
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." 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.
On March 15, 2004, Multnomah County commissioners announced that they would continue to issue licenses to same-sex couples. 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.
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 In Li & Kennedy vs. 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. 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.
Supreme Court review 
On December 15, 2004, the Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments in the appeal of Li & Kennedy vs. 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 & Kennedy vs. 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.
2014 ballot initiative 
In February 2013, Basic Rights Oregon, an LGBT rights organization, formed the group Oregon United For Marriage to launch a petition to put a measure on the November 2014 ballot that would allow legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
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.
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.
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.
- "Article XV, Section 5a". Oregon Constitution. WikiSource. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
- "Judge upholds ban: A Marion County judge rejects constitutional challenges to last year's Ballot Measure 36". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
- 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.
- Gregory A. Chaimov, Legislative Counsel (March 8, 2004). "Same-Sex Marriage: letter to Senator Kate Brown (Senate Democratic Leader)" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-03.
- Oregon Department of Justice: March 12, 2004, accessed November 1, 2012
- 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.
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- Fortmeyer, John. "Christian voters' impact in Oregon still under review". Retrieved 2007-03-17.
- "Mary Li and Rebecca Kennedy et al. v. State of Oregon et al.". Oregon Judicial Department. April 14, 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
- "Backers of gay marriage will take their cause to Oregon ballot in 2014". Oregon Live. February 11, 2013.
- Oregon United for Marriage
- Public Policy Polling: Oregon in favor of legal gay marriage, Kitzhaber Solid
- Public Policy Polling: Oregon divided on gay marriage
- "Kitzhaber, Merkley lead potential foes". 12/7/2012. Public Policy Polling.
- DHM Research survey
- Poll: Oregon voters back PERS restructuring; support dropping for expansion of gun background checks
See also 
- Li & Kennedy v. Oregon Decision
- Oregon Defense of Marriage Coalition
- Oregon Department of Justice page devoted to same-sex marriage
- Basic Rights Oregon
- The Money Behind the 2004 Marriage Amendments—National Institute on Money in State Politics