USA, Oregon: Is NOM a Threat to Marriage Equality Here?

Written by scott on May 2nd, 2014

NOM LogoThe fight for marriage equality in Oregon has been under way for quite some time and appears as if it might come to a head soon. Judge Michael McShane had his first hearing on April 23, 2014, with oral arguments about why the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. During the arguments, while McShane asked probing questions, there was no one defending the current ban. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated in February that she would not defend the ban, and true to her word the Attorney General’s office did not take up the defense.

With a lack of state defense, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced that it wants to defend the ban themselves. McShane denied the NOM’s request to delay the April 23rd oral hearing the day before, and the oral arguments went on as planned.

What NOM has succeeded in doing, however, is securing a hearing for oral arguments about why they should be allowed to defend the same-sex marriage ban in court. For the motion to go in their favor, Scottie Thomaston of Equality on Trial states that NOM “will need to show they have a concrete stake in the outcome of the case, and not simply that they’re supporters of the ban.”

Proving that they have that concrete stake might be a hard sell, as a recent string of federal judge decisions have found that denying same-sex couples the right to marry has no benefit to the state or other people and only hurts those the same-sex couples. NOM’s stake in Oregon’s marriage equality debate will likely be characterized as people having to recognize marriage equality when it is against their religious beliefs.

The hearing has been set for May 14th, 2014. On that date McShane could rule on both NOM’s motion to intervene and the constitutionality of the ban itself. If McShane finds that NOM has the right to intervene, the ruling about constitutionality will be postponed to a later date.

While McShane is under no deadline to issue a ruling overall, the Oregon United for Marriage campaign has to decide whether they will go on the ballot by May 23rd. OUM have gathered enough signatures to put overturning the ban on the November ballot, but a ruling finding the ban unconstitutional would save them the work of filing and save money used on further public outreach.

The reality of the situation is that NOM will not present a huge threat to Oregon’s marriage equality in the long run. If they are somehow able to convince McShane that they represent people with a concrete stake in the outcome, their intervening will only prolong the inevitable: McShane is likely to agree with Rosenblum that “It is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples.”

NOM will spend lots of money defending a ban that will most likely be ruled unconstitutional, and further alienate themselves from the majority of people that now support marriage equality in the process.

What NOM may end up doing is prolonging this process, but in the end it will be for naught. Following the rulings of federal judges since the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA, Oregon’s marriage ban will likely be repealed and NOM will waste money trying to convince people inequality is the best policy… if they even get their day in court.

Article by friend of the blog Konrad Juengling.

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