Oregon To Recognize Out-Of-State Same Sex Marriages
Unlike its neighbors Washington and California, Oregon is not yet among those states that recognize same-sex marriage for its own residents. However, it will now recognize such marriages performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal:
Gay couples can’t get married in Oregon, but state agencies must begin recognizing same-sex unions performed in other counties, according to a directive issued this week.
In a legal opinion delivered Wednesday, Oregon Deputy Attorney General Mary Williams wrote that state agencies can recognize marriages performed in other jurisdictions, even though the Oregon constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
After the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act this year, not recognizing marriages conducted in other jurisdictions “would likely violate the federal Constitution,” Williams wrote.
In a memo sent to state agencies, Department of Administrative Services Director Michael Jordan said the opinion means that state agencies “must recognize all out-of-state marriages for the purposes of administering state programs.”
Oregon courts have ruled in the past that out-of-state marriages not allowed under state law — namely common-law marriages — should still be recognized, Williams said in her opinion.
A “traditional marriage” amendment was ratified by Oregon voters in 2004, but there have been several advances in the marriage equality fight since then. In 2008, the state legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples and there is currently an effort underway to get a ballot initiative legalizing same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2014. That effort should get a shot in the arm from this decision. After all, if an Oregon resident can travel north to Washington or south to California, marry their same-sex partner legal in either of those jurisdictions, and then return home and have their marriage legally recognize, then there really isn’t a rational argument against allowing them to get married in Oregon.