In early 2011, the Obama Administration determined that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was clearly unconstitutional. It decided that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Act in court. The act forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even though they have been solemnized in a state that has legalized same-sex marriages (SSMs). This was widely recognized as having created a tipping point in favor of marriage equality for all loving, committed couples. Starting in 2011, national polls on SSM have consistently showed that most American adults supported SSM. On election day in 2012-NOV, voters legalized SSM in three states: Maine, Maryland and Washington State. They also vetoed an anti-SSM constitutional amendment in Minnesota.
Gay-positive groups in Oregon had considered mounting a referendum to be held on election day in 2012-NOV. It would have tried to change the state constitution to allow same-sex marriages. But the groups decided that the timing wasn't right for Oregon.
On 2011-NOV-09, Basic Rights Oregon issued a statement saying that they were abandoning their efforts for a citizen initiative on the 2012 ballot. They said,
"We have considered the possibility of putting this issue on the ballot for the 2012 election. However several factors, including the expense of waging a statewide political campaign in the midst of an economic crisis, led us to conclude that [we] are better off extending our education campaign and building momentum for a later election,
Ballot measures in Oregon have historically been used to attack the gay and transgender community. Today, we are finally in the driver’s seat, deciding when to go forward with a proactive ballot measure to achieve equality, instead of just fighting back. That presents our community with a tremendous opportunity and an immense responsibility." 4
Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said that the referendums that legalized SSM in three states help set the stage for a similar attempt for Oregon in 2014. She said:
"I am more confident than ever that we will be the first state to overturn a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples."
The Oregon Family Council issued a statement saying:
"For more than a year the Oregon Family Council has been preparing to defend Oregon’s constitutional definition of marriage. We are relieved that Basic Rights [Oregon] has postponed their effort to redefine marriage, but the operative word is 'postponed.' They’ve made it clear in their press release and other public statements that a battle to change marriage is coming. Therefore we will remain vigilant in our efforts to educate Oregonians about the importance of protecting marriage and the impact that redefining marriage can have on society." 5
2012-DEC-17: Support for same-sex marriage in Oregon state:
By the end of 2012, marriage equality had been implemented in the District of Columbia and nine states. One of the nine is Washington State that lies immediately to the north of Oregon.
The state immediately to the south of Oregon is California. During 2008-MAY, the state court legalized SSM in California. However, later that year a plebiscite called "Proposition 8" was
narrowly passed by voters and cancelled SSMs once more. The constitutionality of Prop. 8 has been challenged in court. A district court, panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals, and the full Court of Appeals have determined that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled on 2013-JUN-26 that the District Court's ruling legalizing SSM is valid.
A graphic created by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) shows the results of a series of public opinion surveys taken between 2011-JUN and 2012-DEC in Oregon. They show that adults in that state have been following the national trend:
Favor SSMOppose SSM
By the end of 2012, 54% of the adult population in the state support SSM. The margin in favor of SSM is about 11 percentage points. At this level of support, a future plebiscite in favor of marriage equality would probably resist any fear-based anti-SSM publicity campaign and be passed by voters. 1 By the end of 2014, the margin will probably have increased to about 14 percentage points.
State Rep. Tina Kotek (D) is expected to be the next speaker of the Oregon House. She would be the first openly lesbian speaker in the U.S. She expects that an initiative to legalize SSM will be launched by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB) community rather than by a state political party. She said:
"It will not be a legislative referral. At the end of the day, this is a community decision," 2
In an an article published in The Oregonian, she wrote:
"While I'm eager to win the freedom to marry for all committed Oregon couples, I know that we should only move forward when the time is right." 2
The Portland Democrat said:
"Our community doesn't want to go through this again and lose. But the world is changing when you see the president support it and get re-elected. We need to be ready and 2014 gives us time." 3
State Rep. Dennis Richardson, (R-Central Point,) said if gay marriage came before the Legislature, it's possible some Republicans:
"... might get on board, especially with an open lesbian as speaker. ... It's very likely a referral will take place. Anything is possible."
Gina DuQuenne, president of Southern Oregon Pride, a group promoting marriage equality, said:
"The people need to take this into their own hands. It's about acceptance of diversity in life itself. We're in a 'Modern Family' world and people need to step into the 21st century. Look at how it's changing politically. More people are aware and even our president and vice president support it." 3