Oregon Sans DOMA: Where Does Our State Stand?

On June 26 the Supreme Court of the United States passed down two landmark rulings in the world of marriage equality. First was a decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal tax and inheritance benefits to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court ruled such a discrepancy to be unconstitutional.

marriageThe second big ruling regarded California’s Proposition 8, a state ban on gay marriage that passed in November 2008. In August 2010, the proposition was ruled to be unconstitutional by a United States District Court, a decision that the original proponents of Proposition 8 decided to contest. The Supreme Court declared that the Proposition 8 proponents did not have the proper appellate standing to appeal the lower court’s 2010 ruling.

While both the DOMA and Proposition 8 decisions are major victories for supporters of marriage equality, they are not the far-reaching reforms that would have been ideal. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Proposition 8 did not address the substance of the original proposition—the actual ban on same-sex marriage—thereby avoiding a broader ruling that could have struck a bigger blow to the anti-gay marriage cause. As for the DOMA ruling, same-sex couples residing in states that don’t recognize gay marriage are still in limbo, unsure if they’ll be able to file federal income taxes jointly or if they’re entitled to certain marital tax exemptions. There is also the issue that both decisions were made with only 5-4 rulings, clearly demonstrating that the fight for marriage equality still has many detractors and obstacles to overcome.

The DOMA decision won’t necessarily have a gigantic impact here in Oregon, although it will be a good step forward for those seeking marriage equality. Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage still exists, but Oregon same-sex couples who were married in a state that recognizes gay marriage will be able to benefit from the DOMA ruling. Though Oregon is lacking when compared to Washington in terms of the progressiveness of its marriage laws, there is a movement spearheaded by Mark Johnson Roberts, former president of the Oregon Gay and Lesbian Law Association, to get the issue of gay marriage on the November 2014 ballot.

Support gay marriage in Oregon? You can help! Visit www.oregonunitedformarriage.org for details.

By Stuart White