Attorneys representing Oregon United for Marriage Tuesday filed an amicus brief in the Geiger v. Kitzhaber and Rummell v. Kitzhaber consolidated marriage equality case making its way through the federal court in Eugene, Oregon.
The brief argues that Oregon’s loving and committed same-sex couples should not face further delay in obtaining the freedom to marry. The brief notes that Oregon United for Marriage has until July 3 to submit the signatures volunteers have gathered to put the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative on the November ballot, but the campaign would not pursue the initiative “if a court ruling renders a political campaign unnecessary” by ruling for marriage equality in sufficient time before that deadline.
The brief urges the court to grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry as soon as practicable.
“The Court has the power to spare Oregonians the anxiety, conflict, uncertainty and costs of an election on marriage equality,” according to Oregon United for Marriage’s brief. “The federal courts have long been the guardians of civil rights in this country, and this case is no exception. The Court can grant marriage equality sooner than Oregonians can achieve it through the Initiative.”
In the brief, Oregon United for Marriage argues that justice delayed for Oregon couples who want to marry is justice denied; that an initiative campaign would be expensive for Oregon and Oregon businesses; and that continued state discrimination adversely impacts the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, particularly LGBT youth. Further, a vote carries “substantial social costs,” with LGBT people and their families paying “a high emotional price when their basic civil rights are up for debate.”
Attorneys Steve Berman and Nadine Gartner of Stoll Berne filed the brief on behalf of Oregon United for Marriage.
On the evening of April 22, the day before Judge Michael McShane will hear the final arguments in the case, Oregon United for Marriage, Basic Rights Oregon and the ACLU of Oregon are hosting a series of community vigils around the state to mark the historic moment, and demonstrate to the courts that Oregon is ready for the freedom to marry.
Portland attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton filed the first case, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, last October on behalf of two couples. The ACLU of Oregon and National ACLU, with major assistance from volunteer counsel from the law firms of Perkins Coie, LLP and Johnson, Johnson & Schaller, PC, filed a second case in December, Rummell v. Kitzhaber, on behalf of two more couples and Basic Rights Education Fund. The judge consolidated the two cases in January, and on April 23 will hear the oral arguments in the case at the federal courthouse in Eugene. More information about the case is here.
Similar marriage equality cases are making their way through courts all around the country. Since the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision last year, every federal judge who has ruled on a marriage case has ruled in favor of marriage equality.
The state’s Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, said that Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the federal constitutional rights of homosexual couples, and she will implement gay marriages even if a federal judge strikes it down.
Rosenblum filed a 35-page brief last week explaining that there is “no rational justification for maintaining the gay marriage ban,” and that “federal constitutional protections for same-sex couples have become clear since Oregon voters approved the ban.”
While some say gay marriage is a redefinition of marriage, Rosenblum says that the plaintiffs in this case are just seeking “the same right to marry that the state offers opposite-sex couples and not a right to any newly invented form of marriage.”
In Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law preventing the government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals also decided that gays and lesbians cannot be precluded from jury duty because of their sexual orientation, extending civil rights protections to gays that had previously only been promised to women and racial minorities.
Because of these two major rulings, Rosenblum believes it’s unlikely the Oregon marriage ban will survive.
Some aren’t happy with Rosenblum refusing to support the ban. President of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, said she is “shamefully abandoning her constitutional duty to defend the marriage amendment overwhelmingly enacted by the people of Oregon.”
Mike Marshall, the campaign manager for Oregon United for Marriage, however, was delighted with Rosenblum.
“We are literally counting down the days until all loving and committed couples in Oregon have the freedom to marry, and we are thrilled that the attorney general is on the right side of history,” he said.