A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What, no ‘rational purpose’?

Written April 21st, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, has taken the unusual step of asking a federal court to throw out a law passed by Oregon voters on the grounds that the law is legally indefensible. Based on that standard, the voter-approved law on marriage would not be the only law that the attorney general could refuse to defend.

In 2004 Oregon voters defined “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman. That had been understood to be the definition before, but it wasn’t nailed down. In recent years several federal courts, listening to a shift in public opinion, have found that this definition serves no legitimate government purpose and therefore violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The outcome of the Oregon cases now pending, which Rosenblum declines to contest, will no doubt be the same.

“The ban on same-sex marriage serves no rational purpose and harms Oregon citizens,” Rosenblum’s lawyers wrote. But Oregon recognizes civil unions, which are the same as marriages in all but name, so it’s hard to believe that the existing “marriage” definition does anybody any tangible harm.

And what about other laws? We have, for example, the legal ban on people pumping their own fuel at gas stations open to the public. That law is still popular, but it costs consumers time and serves no rational purpose either, a fact that is demonstrated uncounted times a day every time someone fills up in any of 48 states.

Also in the transportation realm, there is no rational purpose for ticketing drivers for exceeding the 20-mph school-zone speed limit when all the children and teachers are safely inside their building a quarter-mile away. And the harm to drivers being penalized is obvious.

What rational purpose is there for the laws banning plastic shopping bags at some stores but not others? Or how rational are laws mandating certain kinds of renewable energy sources but excluding hydropower as the most renewable source of all? What legitimate government interest is served by raising the price consumers must pay for either bags or electricity?

And while we’re talking “rational purpose,” on what grounds would the state limit civil unions or marriages to two people when the economies of scale suggest that maintaining a household or supervising children would be more efficient — leaving more time for politics or even art — if the number of participating adults was three or four? (hh)

6 responses to “What, no ‘rational purpose’?”

  1. Craig Ziegenhagel says:

    Setting the argument of gay marriage aside. It is her Job as the Attorney General of Oregon to stand up for, argue for and uphold the Laws of the State of Oregon…..as liberals would say… PERIOD ! Unfortunately we see this too often where at the Local and State level, laws are passed by the voters and are ignored or not enforced. When she says she will not argue for a Oregon Law, then , she is not doing her job and is probably violating her oath of office. When this woman ran for office, in one of her campaign ads she was for women getting child support but not the men and even demeaned men as a role in the family… complaints, and she suddenly changed her ad. Why do we vote idiots like this into office?

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Just a bit of clarification on the fuel law.
    The ORS specifically prohibits pumping your own gasoline. One can pump “other” fuels legally.
    I looked it up many years ago when working at a service station.

  3. Jim Engel says:

    One more point on pumping your own fuel. Members of ABATE got passed a provision to that prohibition that allowed motorcycle riders to pump their own. Too many gas jocky’s spilling on gas tanks. I haven’t been aware of any problems with us riders doing it now. Truckers can & have to pump their own…..JE

    • Hasso Hering says:

      More reasons why the law regarding the general public at gas stations lacks any rational purpose, other than convenience for motorists who rather sit in their cars than stand by the pump when the weather is foul. And then there’s the employment angle … (hh)

  4. STEVE GEDDES says:

    I just got back from a trip that took me through 4 western states and Oregon has the lowest price at the pumps. So much for “pumping your own” saving the consumer money. Please remember that every time self service was on the ballot, the oil companies pumped millions of dollars into the campaign FOR self service. Why would they do that? At a self service station, one person in a booth can run the entire operation. The one reason the oil companies want self service is it reduces labor issues and allows the oil companies to own and run chains of stations with an area manager. Self service would eliminate the independent operator. I like knowing that the station I go to is owned by a local businessman….who actually works there…keep on truckin’ Ron.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      I too like to stop at stations run as local businesses. And I like the idea that people have jobs working as gas station attendants. The point was not that universal self-service is a grand idea, only that prohibiting self-service for most of the public because of safety concerns lacks any rational basis. (hh)


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