In Just One Sentence, SCOTUS Says Marriage Equality to Stay in Oregon

June 5, 2014

by Paul Guequierre

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block marriages of same-sex couples in Oregon. In a one-sentence order, the Court rejected the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage’s request to stay the May 19 federal court ruling allowing gays and lesbians to marry in Oregon. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who rules on emergency cases in the western region of Oregon, referred the issue to the full court, which then declined to get involved without giving a reason. Proponents of marriage equality in Oregon are now likely to drop a proposed ballot measure they had planned to take to voters in November.

The high court’s action is another blow to opponents of marriage equality. Since last summer when the Court ruled in Hollingsworth v. Perry that anti-equality forces in California did not have standing to appeal a ruling striking down Prop. 8 and, on the same day, struck down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor which prevented the federal government from recognizing legal marriages of same-sex couples, a string of trial court judges have struck down state bans on marriage equality. (At the 2014 ACS National Convention, lawyers for Edith Windsor will discuss their involvement in the landmark Windsor case, see convention schedule here.)

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 19 states and the District of Columbia now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Another two states provide the equivalent of state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples within the state, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions, and one state, Wisconsin, provides some statewide spousal rights to same-sex couples within the state.  Meanwhile, marriage bans have been struck down in Oklahoma, Virginia, Kentucky, Idaho, Michigan, Utah and Arkansas, but those decisions have been stayed pending appeal.   

Some LGBT rights activists have said they expect marriage equality to be the law in every state within the next five years.  While that may be decided in the Supreme Court’s next term, there is little room for doubt that equality is marching forward.