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Left at the Altar

April 15, 2005

Over at BlueOregon, there is much discussion about the ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court voiding the 3,000 same-sex weddings performed by Multnomah County.
The Court's unanimous decision reflected the more complex landscape for marriage equality proponents in Oregon. Unfortunately but understandably, the Court concluded that Multnomah county officials did not have the authority to marry the couples in the face of existing statutory language. This aspect of the decision is roughly analogous to the outcome in California, where San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome was ruled to have over-stepped his bounds in authorizing same-sex marriages contrary to a recently passed state ballot measure.
Sadly, the similarities to California (or Massachusetts) end there. Whereas same-sex couples in California won an initial victory challenging the state's law under the California constitution, Oregon's Measure 36 forecloses that option. In Massachusetts, individual couples, not executive officials, brought suit and won a 4-3 decision in the Supreme Judicial Court in Boston. (For some background on some of the relevant U.S. Supreme Court cases, see "States' Blights.")
While the Oregon court did not address the issue of equal benefits, the ban passed by voters in 2004 limits the scope of judicial and legislative action for supporters of marriage equality. For now, the next steps focus on competing civil union bills.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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