Oregon state Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan announced today that the state will officially recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, though it will not allow those marriages to take place in Oregon. Though Oregon’s constitution states that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage,” Jordan, with guidance from the Oregon Department of Justice, points out that there are a variety of other marriages that are not legal in Oregon, but are still recognized:
The DOJ opinion discusses the difference between Oregon’s definition of marriage — as between one man and one woman — and the state’s practice of recognizing marriages performed in other states. It describes how Oregon courts have consistently recognized valid out-of-state marriages, even when the marriage could not be performed in Oregon — such as common-law marriages. Although the Oregon constitution might be construed to prohibit recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages, DOJ concludes that such a construction would violate the federal constitution.
This rationale mirrors the argument made by two same-sex couples suing the state of Ohio to have their husbands recognized on their death certificates. Like Oregon, Ohio recognizes marriages from other states that could not be performed in Ohio, because of the age of the spouses or if they are too closely related. To recognize those marriages that were legal in their place of celebration but not same-sex couples’ unions is simple anti-gay discrimination. This rationale could hypothetically be applied in many other states with constitutional bans.
Two efforts are underway to undo Oregon’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Activists are currently collecting the signatures necessary for a ballot initiative to repeal the amendment in 2014. Their campaign got off to a great start, suggesting they won’t have much trouble reaching their goal. Plus, a May poll found that a plurality of Oregon voters were ready to vote for such a change.