What happens next?

Editor and Founding Staff Writer Daniel Borgen. Photo by Xilia Faye.
Editor and Founding Staff Writer Daniel Borgen. Photo by Xilia Faye.
By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly

Editor’s note: This runs as a sidebar in this story in our print issue on page 5.

There are two cases in federal court challenging Oregon’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. In both cases, the plaintiffs filed their motions for summary judgment—that is, legal arguments asking the judge to rule in their favor—in mid-February. Briefs were filed by the State, Multnomah County, and three non-party organizations.

A hearing on the motions for summary judgment is scheduled for April 23. Most commonly, after a hearing on an important motion like this, a judge will take time to do additional research, formulate a decision, and draft a written opinion explaining the decision. It often takes several weeks or months. It is possible, however, the judge could make an oral ruling at the end of the hearing on April 23. It is also possible the judge could issue an opinion the same day or within days of the hearing—this is unlikely, but possible.

Some folks have asked whether the outcome of this case is a foregone conclusion, since the State and County are not contesting the motions for summary judgment. It is not. It is believed the plaintiffs’ legal position is right, but the constitutional issues are complex and unsettled. If the judge decides Oregon’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional, what’s next? Normally, a ruling would be effective immediately. However, some judges have delayed the effectiveness (stayed) their decision to allow for appeals. In this case, no party has asked the judge to stay the decision, but it is possible the judge could do so anyway. Much more after the hearing on April 23.