The Freedom to Marry in Oregon
Winning Marriage: May 19, 2014
Same-sex couples began marrying in Oregon on May 19, 2014 after U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in a federal legal case challenging the state’s anti-marriage laws. The Governor and Attorney General of Oregon had stopped defending the state’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment, so when the state refused to appeal the lower court ruling, the freedom to marry took effect. The decision followed years of organizing in the state, including two years of an intense public education campaign about why marriage matters to same-sex couples.
History and the Path to Victory:
- March 3, 2004: Multnomah County, Oregon begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, issuing over 3,000 before a state judge orders a halt to the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Later, the licenses are ruled invalid, but the action helps spur the conversation around the freedom to marry and emphasizes that no one is hurt when same-sex couples are married.
- November 2, 2004: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Oregon push through Ballot Measure 36, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Oregon Constitution.
- 2004-2013: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Oregon take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
- February 14, 2013: Oregon United for Marriage, the coalition to win the freedom to marry in Oregon, is launched. The campaign announces its intent to collect signatures to proactively win the freedom to marry and remove marriage discrimination from the state constitution at the ballot for the 2014 election.
- October 15, 2013: Same-sex couples and private counsel file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Oregon, Geiger v. Kitzhaber. The case is later joined with a marriage case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Read the Geiger complaint here.
- October 17, 2013: Oregon state officials are directed to ensure that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are respected and treated equally under law, in the same way that Oregon treats different-sex couples' marriages.
- February 20, 2014: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announces that the state of Oregon will not defend laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, explaining that the laws are unconstitutional. Shortly after, Oregon United for Marriage, viewing a faster path to victory in the courts, announces that the coalition will shift its campaign activities to supporting the legal case and increasing public education in the state.
- May 2014: Polling in Oregon tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
- May 9, 2014: Judge Michael McShane strikes down Oregon’s discriminatory state constitutional amendment that denies committed gay couples the freedom to marry, ruling that it violates the U.S. Constitution. The decision takes effect immediately, and same-sex couples begin marrying. Since no defendant with standing appeals the ruling, Oregon becomes the 19th jurisdiction in the country with the freedom to marry. Read the ruling here.
- June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.
Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage
- Oregon United for Marriage was the coalition dedicated to securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, initially leading the campaign to make Oregon the first state to proactively amend the constitution at the ballot in support of the freedom to marry and later taking advantage of a faster route to the freedom to marry in the courts.
- Basic Rights Oregon is Oregon's central state organization committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The ACLU of Oregon works to protect the rights and liberties of all Oregonians through lobbying, litigation and education.
- Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.