The Legal Ban and Domestic Partnerships
With a neighbor that recently legalized gay marriage, for many it is disappointing the Oregon has not succeeded in changing its 2004 gay marriage ban. It began with Multnomah County issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and resulted in a constitutional amendment after a year. The legislature introduced a bill on gay civil unions in 2005 but it died in committee.
The Oregon Family Fairness Act was signed on May 9, 2007 and it aims to provide some of the most important rights granted through marriage to same-sex couples. It was challenged by a court which delayed the date it became effective from January 1, 2008 to February 1, 2008; registrations began three days later. Some of the rights that the measure grants are hospital visitation, death of a partner and joint filing on insurance forms.
The Oregon Constitution says:
The following marriages are prohibited; and, if solemnized within this state, are absolutely void:
(1) When either party thereto had a wife or husband living at the time of such marriage. (2) When the parties thereto are first cousins or any nearer of kin to each other, whether of the whole or half blood, whether by blood or adoption, computing by the rules of the civil law, except that when the parties are first cousins by adoption only, the marriage is not prohibited or void.
(1) “Domestic partnership” means a civil contract described in ORS 106.300 to 106.340 entered into in person between two individuals of the same sex who are at least 18 years of age, who are otherwise capable and at least one of whom is a resident of Oregon. 106.020 Prohibited and void marriages.
No Gay Marriage for Now
Marriage equality work is still in motion but will most likely not be taking on legal action for a while. After a three-year campaign of building support for gay marriage, Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s biggest gay rights group, has announced that they will wait and not put the matter on the ballot for vote in 2012. Although disappointing, it might be the best strategic decision for increasing the chances of success.
The organization reached the decision through surveys and community meetings that convinced the group that focusing on education first. Jeana Frazzini, the executive director explained that it is better to wait until there is a higher chance of winning before taking off on a multimillion dollar campaign. She mentioned how the “weak economy and high rates of unemployment and home foreclosures also create a tough climate for a political campaign over a social issue.”
However, more than three thousand gay and lesbian Oregon couples are in domestic partnerships.
It is also important to take into account how law-making in Oregon works compared to states like Washington. Oregon representatives do not have as much power and in order to undo the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the entire state has to vote in approval.
Other activists and gay marriage rights proponents seem to agree with Frazzini’s reasoning. Oregon State Representative Tina Kotek was quoted saying:
“As a member of the Strategic Advisory Group that Basic Rights Oregon assembled to advise on this decision, I have been impressed with the thorough and thoughtful process to determine how and when to win the freedom to marry. This is extremely personal issue for my partner and I, and while I’m eager to win, I want to move forward when the time is right. I am committed to winning the freedom to marry in Oregon.”
- Can same-sex couples marry in Oregon? No.
- Are there legal relationships available for gay couples? Domestic partnerships are an option that provides couples with limited rights.