Same-sex marriage (SSM) and
domestic partnerships in Oregon.
2014-MAY: Court of Appeals refuses
request for a stay.
Same-sex couples start to marry.
Other impacts of, and reactions to,
District Court ruling.
"NOM" refers to the "National Organization for Marriage"
It is the main national group opposing marriage equality.
2014-MAY-19: The Court of Appeals denies NOM's request for a stay:
At noon on MAY-19, Judge McShane of the District Court issued his ruling legalizing SSM in Oregon. Within minutes, county clerks started to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A few hours later, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued their decision. They rejected NOM's petition for a stay of the District Court's ruling that NOM had requested earlier the same day.
Denying NOM's request was the only possible decision that the Court of Appeals could have made. Back in 2013-JUN, in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that legalized SSMs in California. They determined that ProtectMarriage -- the group who originally promoted Proposition 8 and who later launched the appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court -- did not actually have standing to appeal the case to either court. Thus, the District Court's ruling that legalized SSM in California was valid. The Supreme Court's ruling stated in part that:
"... a 'generalized grievance'—no matter how sincere—is insufficient to confer standing."
In Hollingsworth, the Supreme Court reasoned that ProtectMarriage would not suffer any tangible injuries if same-sex marriages resumed in California. Members of that group would obviously experience what is to them is the indignity of living in a state where all loving, committed couples could marry whether they be of the opposite-sex or same-sex. However, such mental and emotional distress was not considered actual harm by the courts. Thus, the group was found to have no standing to appeal the case. The Supreme Court ruled that only state officials, like the Governor or Attorney General of California had standing to appeal this type of case.
The "standing" situation in Oregon is very similar to that in Hollingsworth. Both involved the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both involved a religiously motivated non-profit agency that opposes marriage equality. Actually, NOM's claim to have standing in Oregon is even weaker than ProtectMarriage's claim in California. NOM has its head office in Washington DC, some 2,500 miles (4,000 km) away from Oregon, whereas Protect Marriage was at least headquartered in California where its lawsuit was filed.
Impact of -- and reactions to -- the District Court ruling:
U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane's ruling was the 13th decision by a District Court judge since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the famous case Windsor v. United States on 2013-JUN-26:
- All 13 had been decided in favor of marriage equality. A few judges are black; most are white. Some were appointed by Republican presidents; others by Democratic presidents. At least one is gay; the vast majority are heterosexual.
- All 13 judges had based their decision on the due process clause and/or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which requires states to treat people -- and thus by extension couples -- equally. 1
A few minutes after the ruling was issued, the county clerk's office in Multnomah County started to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There is normally a 3 day waiting period before a couple can marry after receiving their license. But, for a nominal $5.00 fee, engaged couples can request a waiver. 2 Some couples, having wanted to marry for many decades, probably took advantage of the waiver.
Plaintiffs Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson kiss
after receiving their marriage license.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the main national group promoting marriage equality. Its national field director, Marty Rouse, said simply:
"Love won today."
He noted that MAY-19 was almost exactly the 10th anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in the U.S. which occurred in the state of Massachusetts.
He also remarked that circa 1970:
"Same-sex couples were arrested and sent to jail for dancing together at establishments like the Stonewall Inn [in Greenwich Village, New York City]. Today, 45 years later, in 18 states and now including Oregon and the District of Columbia, same-sex couples are dancing together at their own weddings, and they have wedding rings, not handcuffs. History in Oregon. Congratulations." 3
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is an legal advocacy group that promotes human rights in Oregon. Its executive director, David Fidanque, said:
"The importance of Judge McShane's decision cannot be overemphasized. Our federal Constitution does not allow any state -- or its voters -- to deny same-sex couples equal protection under the law simply because of who they are and who they love. This type of discrimination is wrong, and it's also unconstitutional." 3
Governor John Kitzhaber (D) issued an upbeat statement saying:
"Now, finally, all Oregonians will have the opportunity to make a legal commitment to the person they love. Every person and every family in Oregon deserves that chance. Today is a win for love, for families, and for freedom." 3
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) posted a statement on the Oregon Department of Justice web site. She wrote:
"This is an historic day for our state. I am delighted that Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage, finding no legitimate state purpose justifies the preclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage. ..."
"The ruling affirms our state's commitment to equal protection under the law. It says, plainly and simply, that under the [U.S. Constitution, the] supreme law of the land, it is not okay to deny same-sex couples in Oregon the same right to marry that is given to opposite-sex couples.
As I said three months ago, marriage is the way loving couples become family to each other and to their extended families. As the [District] court said: 'Creating second-tier families does not advance the state’s strong interest in promoting and protecting all families.' I would like to personally congratulate and welcome the many families that will soon be recognized as a result of today's historic ruling." 4
In most states when a District Court overturned part of the state's Constitution that relates to marriage, the next step would be an appeal of the District Court's ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that has jurisdiction in the state. However, in Oregon, both the Attorney General and Governor are favor of marriage equality. With no other individual or group available that has standing to appeal such a case, an appeal is most unlikely. Even if some group or individual could be found with standing, the outcome would be predictable. The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals has already ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the similar Proposition 8 case in California.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Chris Johnson, "Gay judge strikes down Oregon same-sex marriage ban," Washington Blade, 2014-MAY-19, at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/
- "Multnomah County begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples," County web site, 2014-MAY-19, at: https://web.multco.us/
- Bill Mears and Catherine E. Shoichet, "Federal judge strikes down Oregon's same-sex marriage ban," CNN, 2014-MAY-19, at: http://www.cnn.com/
- Ellen Rosenblum, "Statement .... on the occasion of the U.S. District Court's ruling in Geiger et al.," Oregon Department of Justice, 2014-MAY-19, at: http://www.doj.state.or.us/
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-MAY
Latest update: 2014-JUN-06
Author: B.A. Robinson