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Marriage equality supporters win victory on Oregon ballot language

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum handed a victory to marriage equality supporters in the state late last week when her office rejected a proposal by equal marriage opponents to dramatically change the ballot title for a 2014 initiative that will give Oregon voters the chance to bring marriage equality to their state, the Oregonian reported.

In a statement released Friday, Kate Brown, the Oregon Secretary of State, announced the final wording for the ballot title, which will read as follows: “Amends Constitution: Recognizers marriage between couples of same gender; protects clergy/religious institutions’ refusal to perform marriages.”

Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s main pro-marriage equality organization, has prepared two versions of the proposed ballot initiative, one of which explicitly mentions same-sex couples and one which does not.  Both filings have the language which opponents of equal marriage rights has objected to, which read that the “state and its political subdivisions shall issue marriage licenses to all couples.”

In a late March legal filing, opponents of marriage equality in Oregon wrote that this phrase would amend Oregon law to require any governmental office, and not just county clerks, to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  “The change that [the ballot initiative] makes to Oregon law,” they wrote, “means that water districts, school districts, metropolitan service districts (to name a few) will now be forced to issue marriage licenses.”

In their filing, marriage equality opponents suggested the following amended language for the ballot measure: “Amends Constitution: Requires state, counties, cities, school districts, other districts to issue marriage licenses regardless of gender.”

Amy Ruiz, Basic Rights Oregon’s chief spokeswoman, told the Oregonian at the time that the amendment simply said that any political subdvision of the state would have to recognize marriages for same-sex couples, but that county clerks would remain the only entities that would issue licenses.

Jeff Payne, an assistant attorney general, rejected the opponents’ argument in a letter to the state Elections Division, writing that, should their assertion turned out to be correct, “requiring officials other than county clerks to issue marriage licenses is a secondary effect of the measure, not its subject,” and therefore was not necessary for the measure’s ballot title.

Parties on both sides of the measure now face an April 19 deadline to appeal the ballot language decision, and could take the case to the state Supreme Court, if they desired.  Basic Rights Oregon must collect 116,284 signatures by July 2014 to place the proposed amendment on the 2014 ballot.  The group has said it will determine which version of the amendment it will proceed with after the ballot title process is complete.

1 Comment

  • 1. Marriage equality challen&hellip  |  October 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

    […] ban through another ballot measure.  In April, Basic Rights Oregon, an LGBT rights group, won a legal victory when Attorney General Rosenblum approved the language it had proposed for the ballot’s […]

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