Same-sex marriage (SSM) and
domestic partnerships in Oregon.
Part 7: 2013-DEC to 2014-MAR:
2nd lawsuit to legalize SSM
2013-DEC-19: American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon files a second marriage equality lawsuit in federal District Court:
David Fidanque, executive director of ACLU of Oregon issued a statement:
"Since the Oregon Attorney General recently concluded that it is unconstitutional for Oregon to refuse to recognize valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, we think the time is right for the [federal] court to decide that the state must also allow [loving, committed, engaged same-sex] couples who reside in Oregon to marry here."
The two couples who filed the complaint in District Court are Lisa Chickadonz & Christine Tanner, along with Paul Rummell & Benjamin West, all of Portland, OR. An additional plaintiff is a pro-marriage equality group, the Basic Rights Education Fund.
They merged their lawsuit with another lawsuit -- Geiger v. Kitzhaber-- that had been launched on OCT-15 by two other same-sex couples who also live in Portland. 1
The ACLU case is called Rummell and West v. Kitzhaber. The defendants are John Kitzhaber (D), in his capacity as Governor of Oregon along with the Attorney General, the State Registrar, and the Multomah County Assessor.
According to the ACLU - Oregon:
The state is expected to file its briefs in response in mid-March. Oral arguments are scheduled before U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Eugene on [2014-APR-23]." 11
2014-FEB-20: Attorney General refuses to defend marriage ban:
Oregon's Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, said that her office will not defend the ban on same-sex marriage in the state Constitution. She said that the ban:
"... cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review." 2
Normally, Attorneys General are expected to defend all state laws and all parts of the state Constitution. They have come under severe attacks by religious and social conservatives when they refuse to do so. They have been accused of violating their oath of office. However, there is an unusual circumstance at work here. Attorneys General all take an oath of office that requires them to uphold both the state and federal Constitution. However, to our knowledge, no oath of office says what an Attorney General must do when the two Constitutions conflict with each other.
There are dozens of active pro-SSM federal lawsuits in other states. Many Attorneys General in addition to A.G. Rosenblum have also refused to defend same-sex marriage bans because they conflict with Amendment 14 of the federal Constitution.
The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires both the federal and state governments to treat all people equally unless there is a very strong reason not to. By extension, this includes loving, committed couples. Between 2013-DEC-20 and 2014-APR-02, six federal District Court judges has issued rulings citing this Amendment to justify their rulings. They have all found same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. This includes Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia. There are dozens of additional cases in federal courts awaiting rulings.
Jeana Frazzini is the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon which supports marriage equality. She said:
"I am more confident than ever that same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry before the year  is out. Today’s step forward is another example of the important partnership between Basic Rights Oregon and the ACLU in securing the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples. The important work on this case could not have been accomplished without the collaboration between our organizations and hard work of our partners and supporters." 5
David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said:
"While court cases can take unexpected turns, today’s announcement by Attorney General Rosenblum is extremely important for everyone who supports the civil rights and civil liberties of all Oregonians." 5
Rummell v. Kitzhaber should be an interesting case. The plaintiffs are all pro-marriage equality; the defendant is Governor John Kitzhaber who is a Democrat and is presumably pro-marriage equality; the Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is a Democrat and has stated that the ban on SSM is indefensible.
The plaintiffs have asked the District Court for a summary judgement. That is, they would like the judge to issue a ruling without a trial. There has been a long series of decisions in District Courts favoring marriage equality since 2014-DEC, as listed above. it seems redundant and a waste of resources to have still another trial.
This case is based on the usual argument heard in previous trials in District Courts: that the state laws and/or constitutional amendment that bans marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This same argument was also successfully used to legalize interracial marriages across the country in 1967 during the famous case Loving v. Virginia.
2014-JAN to MAR: Further developments:
- 2014-JAN: The Roman Catholic Church in Oregon joined the Protect Marriage Oregon coalition to oppose marriage equality. 2
- 2014-FEB: The Friends of Religious Freedom Committee are sponsoring the citizen initiative that would give businesses the freedom to discriminate against potential same-sex customers who are arranging their marriage. The Committee has a conflict with the Attorney General's office. They disagree about the caption and other paragraphs in the initiative. For example:
- The Attorney General's office selected the following caption: "Exempts religious opposition to same-sex marriage/civil union/domestic partnership from penalties for discrimination."
- The Committee recommends: "Protects persons choosing non-participation in same-sex ceremonies based on conscience or religious belief from penalization." 3
- 2014-FEB-18: The plaintiffs and Basic Rights Educational Fund filed a "Support of Motion for Summary Judgment" document. It concludes:
"Paul Rummell, Benjamin West, Lisa Chickadonz, Christine Tanner, and Basic Rights Education Fund respectfully request that this Court enter summary judgment declaring Article XV, section 5a,
of the Oregon Constitution an unconstitutional
deprivation of equal protection and due process, and granting such other relief necessary to ensure equal access to and recognition of marriage for same sex couples in this State." 5
- A new group, Catholic Oregonians for Marriage Equality, has been formed by and for Roman Catholic laity to promote marriage equality. 2
- Also in March, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) filed a request with Judge Michael McShane of an Oregon District Court to intervene in the marriage equality case. In mid-MAY, Judge McShane rejected NOM's request, stating that they had filed their request too late. 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Christian Gaston, "Two more couples file suit against Oregon's ban on gay marriage," The Oregonian, 2013-DEC-19. at: http://www.oregonlive.com/
- "Oregon's same-sex marriage battle divides people of faith," Los Angeles Times, 2014-MAR-02, at: http://www.latimes.com/
- Shawn M. Lindsay, "Initiative Petition #52 (2014) Draft Ballot Title Comments," Harris Berne Christensen, LLP, 2014-FEB-20, at: http://media.oregonlive.com/ This is an accursed PDF file.
- "Oregon Attorney General declares ban on marriage for same-sex couples indefensible," ACLU-Oregon, 2014-FEB-20, at: http://www.aclu-or.org/
- "Support of Motion for Summary Judgment," ACLU-Oregon, 2014-FEB-18, at: http://www.aclu-or.org/
- Matt Baum, "Anti-Gay Groups Achieve Colossal Failure in Oregon (VIDEO)," American Foundation for Equal Rights, 2014-MAY-19, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2013-DEC
Latest update: 2014-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson