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Oregon and Gay Marriages

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One year ago, Massachusetts became the first state in U.S. history to issue same-sex marriage licenses, having been given the nod earlier by the highest court in the state (Miller, 2004). The inevitable domino effect commenced almost immediately, as state after state has been shuffling to brace for the ensuing clamor for emulation. Oregon recently weighed in on the issue.

In March 2004, some 3,000 same-sex couples in Multnomah county (which includes Portland) participated in individual marriage ceremonies conducted by various officials empowered under Oregon law to perform marriages. Those officials forwarded the documentation generated by each ceremony to the State Registrar, who maintains a central record of marriages performed in Oregon. At the Governor’s direction, the State Registrar refused to file or register any same-sex marriage records on the ground that same-sex marriages do not comport with the provisions of ORS chapter 106, which regulates marriages performed in Oregon. As a result, nine same-sex couples, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, sued the State on the grounds that statutes prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying on the same terms as opposite-sex couples violated Article I, section 20, of the Oregon Constitution (Mary Li..., 2005).

In the meantime, while the appeals were pending, in November 2004 Oregon voters adopted Ballot Measure 36 (2004), a voter-initiated amendment to the Oregon Constitution aimed at defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. That amendment, which became effective on December 2, 2004, declares: “It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage” (Mary Li..., emp. added).

In their April 14, 2005 ruling, the Oregon State Supreme Court has affirmed, in accordance with state statutes, that marriage in Oregon is a contract between a husband and wife, and that a “husband” is a male and a “wife” is a female. Manifesting a respectful regard for the will of the people, the Court commented on the constitutional amendment that had been passed recently by the people of Oregon: “Today, marriage in Oregon—an institution once limited to opposite-sex couples only by statute—now is so limited by the state constitution as well” (Mary Li...). Consequently, the Court declared that Multnomah County did not have the authority to issue marriage licenses to the 3,000 same-sex couples, making such licenses null and void.

The High Court of Oregon is to be commended for their wise and accurate assessment of longstanding traditional American values—values that originated from the Bible. The Creator, Himself, declared marriage to be between one man (a male) and one woman (a female)—Genesis 2:24. Any adjustment in this divine formula is destructive to the moral foundations of society. Rather than ignoring prior legal history (as so many activist judges have done in the last fifty years in order to foist their leftist agenda on the American public), the Oregon Supreme Court properly appealed to Oregon’s own historical stance regarding the critical significance of marriage to the fabric of society. The Court cited the 1877 case of Rugh v. Ottenheimer, which stated: “The marriage relation, affecting the whole public, and being an institution of society, affecting more deeply than any other the foundations of social order and public morals, has always been under the control of the legislature” (Mary Li...).

Score one for the good guys—a rarity these days. Though sexual anarchy characterizes the American moral landscape, maybe more and more Americans are becoming fed up and ready to resist the sinister forces that would undermine civilization itself.


Miller, Dave (2004), “Massachusetts and Gay Marriages,” [On-line], URL:

Mary Li v. State of Oregon, CC 0403-03057; CA A124877; SC S51612, [On-line], URL:

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