Friday, November 04, 2005

SSM Salem Setback

The fat lady has hardly begun her scales. Today in Oregon, a county circuit-court judge upheld a voter initiative ban on same-sex marriages. The gay-rights groups who challenged it into court will surely go to the appeal court, and then regardless of the outcome, someone will certainly push it to the state supreme court.

As Scarlett O'Hara said, "Oh fiddle dee, I'll think about it tomorrow!"

Well, after many yesterdays, Judge Joseph Guimond ruled on a relatively fine point of challenge. He said that while the single-sentence ban did touch and revise many areas of the state constitution and laws, it did not violate the rules on such initiatives. Oregon law says that multiple amendments cannot be submitted to voters as a single one.

This Measure 36, reads:
The Constitution of the State of Oregon is amended as follows:

It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.

The state's analysis before last year's vote is here. It makes it plain that the intend is not only to forbid performance of same-sex marriages in Oregon, but also to ensure that no same-sex marriage performed elsewhere (Think, what New England State might that reference?) would be recognized in the Beaver State.

That seems like a plain enough violation of the stricture on ballot initiatives only covering one change to the constitution. However, the august Joseph Guimond agreed with those arguing that this was just clarifying marriage law, regardless of its impact on multiple areas of the constitution.

In addition to the separate-vote challenge, two other issues were part of the consideration:
  • That Measure 36 actually revised the constitution by inserting marriage defintions that never appeared; revision in contrast to amendment is reserved for the state legislature.
  • That Measure as a policy statement is really not an amendemnet at all; thus there was no right to vote on it.

Basic Rights Oregon led the challenge and has announced that it will appeal. It also has background on the initiative and case, as well as a link to the PDF of the decision. (And now you have that too; isn't the Internet grand?)

You can take a read for yourself in the five-pager, but at first glance, it appears as though the judge picked nits about to try to justify the position that this was not a multiple-amendment nested into a single one. He somehow finds that Measure 36 is "an exception to the proposition that 'it is difficult to make related changes to unrelated constitutional provisions.'"

Read 'em and weep. To be continued...

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