Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to issue a stay of a federal judge’s ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Oregon. This was the last opportunity for those seeking to maintain the 2004 constitutional amendment in Oregon that placed one-man/one-woman limits on marriage in the state.
Same-sex marriage is now a constitutionally protected right in Oregon.
Ironically, the legal adjudication of this issue clouds an unprecedented shift in public opinion in just a few short years. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama declared his opposition to same-sex marriage. His position, which was also shared by President Clinton when he signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, is now completely anathema to Democrat voters.
Many of Oregon’s Republican voters are starting to pull their elected officials to the center on this issue. Rarely, if ever, will you see a Republican candidate today embracing opposition to same-sex marriage as a central theme in a general election campaign. The most recent Oregon polls show 58% support for overturning the states’ constitutional ban.
This kind of support signals strong bipartisanship in our state.
To some extent, this shift may be more generational than political. Earlier this year our report, Are Millennials Reshaping Politics in the Pacific Northwest?, showed that Oregon’s millennial voters support for same-sex marriage exceeds that of the Boomer generation by 30 points (67% to 37%). These young voters are more motivated by issues than candidate platforms – and they are making a decisive impact on public opinion.
This embrace of individual freedoms for all Oregonians is what compelled a group of Republicans to form a coalition dedicated to legalizing same-sex marriage in Oregon. I was proud to serve on the steering committee of this organization, which was dominated by young local professionals eager to elevate the party’s commitment to individual freedom.
There have been many voices in Oregon who have urged a referendum on same-sex marriage regardless of the judicial rulings. They want this issue validated by voters, not the courts.
I’m sympathetic to that argument. I’d imagine everyone is.
Part of me would have liked to see Republican voices prominently urging their fellow party members to embrace liberty for all Oregonians. It would have been beneficial to Republicans (not to mention their brand) and to the State of Oregon, which could benefit from a healthy two-party system.
That said, I have many close friends in long-term, committed relationships who truly were not interested in an unnecessary fight. They just wanted to get married. Yesterday, the courts made that possible.
I hope that we remember that Oregon voters on both sides of the aisle are celebrating.