Less than three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court declared major provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, the obstacles to marriage equality are starting to fall like so many dominoes. One that’s teetering precariously is Oregon.
On Tuesday, the national group Freedom to Marry announced a $250,000 contribution to the Oregon effort to put a marriage equality initiative on the 2014 ballot. According to oregonlive.com, the donation was “the first contribution to either side of what is expected to be a hotly contested issue in Oregon next year.”
Our opinion: Bring it on.
Now that the June 26 Supreme Court ruling has legalized same-sex marriage in California, Oregon remains the only West Coast state that’s missing among 13 that have taken the right step. This process might seem agonizingly slow to some, but it’s actually rapid in the context of major, contentious ballot measures. Only seven months ago, Washington became the first state to perform wedding ceremonies that had been legalized by popular vote.
Now Oregon seeks to do the same. The change would allow Oregon to claim its own distinction. According to Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian, voter approval would “mark the first time that a state’s voters reversed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.” Success will not come easily, though. As Jeana Frazzini wrote recently in an op-ed for the Portland Tribune, signature gathering will start on July 20, and 116,284 are required to qualify the measure for the statewide ballot. Frazzini is executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.
Meanwhile, other dominoes are toppling more quickly, especially in the federal government. The New York Times reports that the House “issued a memo alerting its employees to the changes.” And even though the chamber is controlled by same-sex marriage opponents, the House “had few options but to notify all 435 representatives and their staff members in all 50 states that they have 60 days to enroll their same-sex spouses in an array of benefits like vision, dental, long-term care and survivors’ annuities.” And just as we have predicted on many other matters pertaining to same-sex marriage, the overall effect was virtually crickets, nothing like the societal upheaval that many had warned against.
In Pennsylvania, a lawsuit has been filed to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. And a crescendo is heard in rumblings elsewhere. Oregon is one of four states targeted by the group Freedom to Marry for ballot measures next year. The other states are Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey. Mapes reports that nine other states could see marriage equality ballot measures in 2015.
None of this should come as a surprise, not after the December weddings in Washington state, then the June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. As Frazzini wrote, “I believe we can truly unite Oregonians around our common values of fairness, freedom and treating others as we would like to be treated.” Future generations, of course, will look at this march to equality and wonder why it took so long to knock over the dominoes of opposition.