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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Oregon ‘marriage:’ Now what?

Written May 19th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Benton County announced right away it was ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses, though there's a three-day waiting period for the actual wedding.

Benton County announced right away it was ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses, though there’s a three-day waiting period for the actual wedding.

Because a federal judge says so, Oregon’s Measure 36 on marriage now seems to be history. So much for the more than one million votes in favor of the initiative in November 2004. The measure’s demise raises some questions and once again tells us something about the law.

Measure 36 defined “marriage” in the Oregon constitution as the legal union of one man and one woman. When it was challenged in court, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined the plaintiffs in seeking to have the definition declared in violation of the federal Constitution. She believes there are no rational grounds for the state’s definition.

The case reminds everyone that Law Day speakers are not telling the whole truth when they say we have a government of laws, not of men. What we actually have is a form of government in which the constitutions and laws mean only what judges say they mean. Words on paper mean very little. They can be brushed aside. This has always been so, but it’s good to be reminded now and then lest we get overconfident about various constitutional guarantees.

Now what? If marriage does not mean what the state constitution says, what does it mean? The statute on the subject had been sufficiently vague to prompt the initiative in the first place.

And if there are no rational grounds for the one-man-one-woman definition, what rational grounds are there for any other definitions, except perhaps for some kind of  minimum-age requirement?

Why should the statute, for example, limit marriage to two people? Other societies with long histories have other ideas on how many people can be married to each other. Which judge is willing to decide that ours is more rational than those?

And why should there be limits on the degree of consanguinity? Since the idea of conceiving children is not a rational basis for defining marriage, then why should the state care if people closely related by blood want to marry for financial or tax reasons?

And what, by the way, gives the state the right to demand a license in order to get married? What’s the rational basis for that, considering that the expense of administering marriage licenses probably exceeds the revenue flow?

It’s obvious that tradition and custom mean nothing to the courts in cases like this. We are at their mercy, adrift without a rudder in a culture that resembles a turbulent sea. (hh)



7 responses to “Oregon ‘marriage:’ Now what?”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “If marriage does not mean what the state constitution says, what does it mean?”

    Exactly as you stated it: “Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined the plaintiffs in seeking to have the definition declared in violation of the federal Constitution. She believes there are no rational grounds for the state’s definition.”

    Until/if/when they match, federal will trump state. Then it’s up to folks in D.C. to change that. It’s “our” choice to elect the folks to make those choices…

  2. Malah Peterson
    Subject: stitchin@alyrica.net
    Malah Peterson responded by email:
    Thank you Hasso for your sensible and thoughtful perspective. Why and how can 2% of the population (homosexuals) overturn a majority vote of the people? Talk about the vocal minority. It has nothing to do with hate or bigotry. It has to do with thousands of years of societal practices that have seemed to work in the past. And the further away we get from those age-old traditions, the further it seems our society falls into disarray.

  3. Jim Clausen says:

    “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.” – Joseph Stalin

    Seems Stalin’s prophecy is coming true… and part of Stalin’s requirement for the destabilization of America was to make homosexuality “normal”…

  4. Peg Richner says:

    I would advocate that government bow out of any involvement in marriage. The vast majority of people will still conform to the one man/one woman paradigm simply because it has worked for thousands of years. Allow all to be free to choose. No government annointment necessary.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I Just lost a lot of respect for you Hasso.

  6. Jim Engel says:

    Just what is a “marriage license”? In my opinion it is a means of record keeping. Who is matched up with who. For financial responsibility, health matters, insurance matters, estate matters. The State neither gives its blessing or encouragement so so speak. The State just gives the license and keeps the record.

    To those who oppose the so called “gay marriage” and it’s becoming a legal thing now take heart. In their manner they can never reproduce. Let them be in peace. The older I get the heavier the bucket of rocks becomes that I want to throw at issues. JE

    • Peg Richner says:

      If the state simply gave the license and kept the record, there would be no need at all for a so-called definition of marriage. It isn’t necessary for the state to be involved in “financial responsibility, health matters, insurance matters, estate matters;” all could be managed by private contract.

 

 
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