Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit has stated that Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, but the case does not directly impact the ban, nor does it have wider implications beyond the narrow personnel case involving Alison Clark and Anna Campbell.
The case that was before Pregerson involved Clark, a public defender from Portland, and her wife, Campbell. The two married in British Columbia last year. Clark tried to have Campbell put on her federal healthcare benefits, but was blocked because of the Defense of Marriage Act and Oregon’s Measure 36.
Pregerson ruled on the appeal of the decision to deny Campbell her wife’s healthcare benefits only, and ruled in th couple’s favor. Pregerson stated “The denial of Clark’s request for spousal FEHB benefits was based on Clark’s sexual orientation, and thus violates the plan’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
He also offered a lengthy opinion about Measure 36, but it has no legal standing. He wrote in his opinion that “I can see no objective that is rationally related to banning same-sex marriages, other than the objective of denigrating homosexual relationships. Thus, Measure 36 reveals itself to be ‘wholly without any rational basis’ and is therefore unconstitutional.”
His opinion comes while the United States Supreme Court is considering two cases involving same-sex marriage. The first deals with California’s Proposition 8 and its constitutionality. The second involves the Defense of Marriage Act and its constitutionality.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Rhode Island’s legislature has passed it with the bill now going to Governor Lincoln Chaffee. Delaware, Minnasota and Nevada are all considering the issue.
Meanwhile, Basic Rights Oregon has filed a ballot initiative with the Secretary of State’s office to repeal Measure 36 in the 2014 election, should they get enough signatures. Oregon passed the measure back in 2004, when dozens of such measures were pushed by then RNC chairman Ken Mehlman to help get President George W. Bush reelected.
Mehlman has since come out of the closet and renounced that effort.