The Latest on Marriage Equality in Oregon

Paul Rummell (left) and Ben West of Rummell v. Kitzhaber
Compiled by PQ Monthly Staff

Editor’s note: There have been rumblings lately about people and organizations trying to “re-write” or “ignore” Oregon’s diverse, storied history on the marriage equality front. While much has been said–and written–about the current cases before the courts, no one–and I mean no one–is ignoring the trailblazers who’ve made these momentous moments possible. Aside from a pair of excellent stories about events in 2004–one by Byron Beck, who interviewed the 2004 county commissioners, and another by me, wherein I chatted with former BRO head Roey Thorpe–one can always look to the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest, who serve as gatekeepers and librarians of our queer heritage. (They also write a monthly column in PQ.) We can march forward while honoring our past. We’re capable of doing all things–if we work together, and offer one another some grace.

Excluding loving, committed same-sex couples from marriage in Oregon is unconstitutional, attorneys said during oral arguments in Oregon’s marriage equality lawsuit, Rummell v. Kitzhaber and Geiger v. Kitzhaber consolidated case.

In his opening argument in front of the court, ACLU cooperating attorney Misha Isaak said “Oregon’s marriage exclusion tells loving, committed same-sex couples that their relationships are unworthy of equal recognition. It demeans same-sex couples, who the Constitution protects. And it humiliates children being raised by same-sex couples. The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon same-sex couples. Oregon is unique. Our constitution grants equal privileges and immunities to same-sex couples and our laws grant gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as married couples. But the state carves out from its policy the right of same-sex couples to call themselves ‘married.’ This is a State-imposed badge of inferiority that the Equal Protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment will not abide.”

A ruling on the case is not expected until after May 14, when Judge McShane is set to hear arguments on a motion to intervene, filed earlier this week by the hate group anti-marriage equality group National Organization for Marriage. Though we’re the last state on the West Coast without marriage for same-sex couples, support for freedom to marry in Oregon is at a record-high 55%, according to recent polling.

Similar marriage equality cases are making their way through courts all around the country. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision last year, every federal judge who has ruled on a marriage case has ruled in favor of marriage equality.

Background: Attorneys filed lawsuits last year in federal court in Eugene to challenge laws that exclude same-sex couples from marriage in Oregon. In October, attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton filed the first case, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, on behalf of two couples. In December, staff attorneys for the ACLU filed a second case, Rummell v. Kitzhaber.

In February, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced in February that Measure 36 is indefensible.

On Monday, the National Organization for Marriage in Washington, D.C., threw a Hail Mary pass filed a motion to intervene in the case.

Much more coming next week–stay tuned!