WASHINGTON - Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Thursday that Oregon has joined two historic briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting same-sex marriage.
In Hollingsworth v. Perry, Oregon joined a brief prepared by Massachusetts urging the Supreme Court to strike down California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Same-sex couples challenged the 2008 provision, arguing that it violated their rights under the federal constitution. The trial court found no support for the proponent's argument that a ban on same-sex marriage was necessary to protect children. Supporters of the ban appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the district court's decision.
In addition, in United States v. Windsor, Oregon joined a brief prepared by New York and Massachusetts urging the court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That federal law bans the extension of hundreds of federal benefits and protections to marriages validly recognized under state law.
In both cases, the amicus briefs argue that neither states nor Congress can justify discrimination against same-sex relationships based on assertions that unequal treatment is necessary to promote "responsible procreation" and child rearing by different-sex biological parents.
As the California trial court found after hearing the testimony of experts and reviewing hundreds of pages of material, there simply is no support for the notion that banning same-sex marriage does anything other than harm our citizens and their families. The same is true for thousands of Oregonians, the attorney general said.
"Having filed a ‘friend of the court' brief in the United States Supreme Court in the 1990s in the important civil rights case of Romer v. Evans, I am pleased that Oregon's Department of Justice continues to play a significant legal role in a long tradition of supporting equality for all," Rosenblum said.
"Our position in these cases isn't about politics or popular opinion," she said. "It's about what's right. It's about helping to end one of the last bastions of sanctioned discrimination against our friends, our co-workers, our brothers and sisters."
"This is one of those moments that come along once every 20-30 years, like when the Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, and Romer v. Evans. These cases could change the course of civil rights and transform America. On an issue of this significance, it's important to take a stand."
Governor Kitzhaber also expressed his support, saying, "When we talk about marriage equality, we're talking about the basic equality we demand for every person – the opportunity for a good education, affordable health care, access to upward mobility and a more prosperous life."
Oregonians in 2004 approved a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. No Oregon court has considered the kind of federal constitutional challenges to the Oregon ban that are presented in these cases.
The U.S. States Supreme Court will hear arguments in these two cases on March 26 and 27.