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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 3, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 18
Federal judge criticizes Oregon's anti-equality law
Section One
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Federal judge criticizes Oregon's anti-equality law

Ruling extends federal benefits but leaves marriage ban standing

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Ninth Circuit Court judge said in a legal decision that an Oregon law barring same-sex marriage is unconstitutional - but his opinion does not strike down the law, because it wasn't at issue in the case.

Judge Harry Pregerson's ruling, issued April 24, came in a case involving benefits under the Federal Employees Health Care Benefits program.

Plaintiff Alison Clark married her partner, Anna Campbell, in British Columbia on June 23, 2012. When the couple returned to Oregon and applied for health benefits from Clark's employer, a federal agency, they were denied because DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

The state of Oregon also did not recognize their marriage, because voters had passed Measure 36, which amended the state constitution to bar same-sex marriages, in 2004.

Clark appealed the decision denying her spouse federal benefits, and Pregerson ruled in her favor.

'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 wrote.

'UNCONSTITUTIONAL'
monr Pregerson also wrote a long opinion reviewing Measure 36.

'I can see no objective that is rationally related to banning same-sex marriages, other than the objective of denigrating homosexual relationships,' he wrote. 'Thus, Measure 36 reveals itself to be 'wholly without any rational basis' and is therefore unconstitutional.'

The constitutionality of Measure 36 was not an issue in the case, however, because Clark did not sue to get the state of Oregon to recognize her marriage - she sought only to secure health insurance for her spouse - so the Oregon law will stand in spite of Pregerson's opinion.

Basic Rights Oregon said it has always planned to challenge the law, and the group announced in February that it would begin gathering petition signatures to put the issue back on the ballot in 2014.

A PPP poll taken in December 2012 showed some 54% of Oregon voters in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

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