County in Oregon bans ALL marriages
March 23, 2004 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Benton County bans ALL marriages. In a move to elicit legislative action, Benton County in Oregon has halted all marriages until the issue of who can and cannot marry is decided. This gets more interesting every day.
posted by superchicken (59 comments total)
 
I betcha it was the bald guy with the hula shirt who came up with this.

BTW, superchicken...any relation to the wonderchicken?
posted by ColdChef at 8:20 PM on March 23, 2004


Awesome.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:24 PM on March 23, 2004


I guess this is one way to deal with the issue of gay marriages. I wonder if they are doing it simply to protect themselves from lawsuits or as a statement in support of true equal rights? Let me think, they are politicians, so my guess is they are following the 1st rule of CYA and using it to make themselves look liberated into the bargain.

ColdChef, the superchicken was an early prototype, but it didn't work out too well, so the product line was scrapped and replaced with the wonderchickenTM series of fowl-based products.
posted by dg at 8:26 PM on March 23, 2004


cool, even if they are just covering their asses. (it's funny--Daily Show just had a segment with straight couples who couldn't get married in SF bec. the lines were too long)
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on March 23, 2004


Just remember, folks- the sillier this all gets, the more the sanctity of marriage is being protected.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:33 PM on March 23, 2004


Only problem is, it's pretty clearly unconstitutional for the state to bar hetrosexual couples from marrying. See Zablocki v. Redhail.
posted by boltman at 8:33 PM on March 23, 2004


[tangent]superchicken is actually a derivative of my name, which sounds like "chicken" in tagalog. since i didn't like being called just plain chicken by my filipino friends, i told them to add the "super". because you know, i'm no ordinary chicken.[/tangent]

also, this is my first post ever on mefi. woohoo!
posted by superchicken at 8:33 PM on March 23, 2004


I substantially agree with my Brother POWELL's reasons for rejecting the Court's conclusion that marriage is the sort of "fundamental right" which must invariably trigger the strictest judicial scrutiny. -- from Rhenquist's dissent in that case boltman mentions

hmmm...a fundamental right? I wonder if that can be applied to us?

and good post, superchicken
posted by amberglow at 8:50 PM on March 23, 2004


Seeing as I spend most of my time in Benton County, I can honestly say I don't think they're just trying to cover their asses. This is a super liberal area and things tend to be a little unconventional and very political here. There are demonstrators in front of city hall almost every day. Seriously, people get home from their jobs and come out around 5 or 6 every evening to protest the war, support the war, or support whatever their personal cause is. It's quirky, and that's what things are like around here. I imagine the county commissioners really think this is a good idea, and a new way to think about this whole situation. I think it's a good perspective and I applauded when I heard that they had taken this step.
posted by evilbeck at 8:53 PM on March 23, 2004


DG- it's a CYA move. Originally they voted to issue same sex licenses, but they're apparently worried about the fundy lawsuits. I suppose the fundies might sue them for not issuing licenses to good christian men and women though. Amusing regardless. XQ...'s humor is spot on. And it is sort of amusing to watch the fundies get their panties in a bunch.
posted by ehintz at 8:54 PM on March 23, 2004


Way to foster intelligent discussion of an issue that reasonable people can disagree upon: punish people who have little or nothing to do with the issue.

It's extortion, and it's wholly unbecoming.
posted by silusGROK at 9:31 PM on March 23, 2004


(I've stayed out of the homosexual marriage fracas, but this is just stupid... you may now return to your regularly scheduled fracas.)
posted by silusGROK at 9:34 PM on March 23, 2004


Way to foster intelligent discussion of an issue that reasonable people can disagree upon: punish people who have little or nothing to do with the issue.

I know, isn't it sad when a homosexuals group of people who didn't do anything wrong gets punished for it?
posted by superchicken at 9:45 PM on March 23, 2004


The difference between homosexuals wanting to marry and hetrosexuals wanting to marry is that hetrosexuals could have reasonably expected to be able to get a marriage license this week. Thus, the harm inflicted is not just preventing them from marrying, but seriously disrupting plans that were already in effect.

What do you do if your wedding is planned for this weekend, you and your future spouse have invested thousands of nonrefundable dollars in churches, caterers, musicians, etc and you have a pair of nonrefundable tickets to your honeymoon destination? Unless there's some alternate way to get a marriage license in Oregon than through your county of residence, you're seriously harmed in a way that homosexual couples unable to marry (but with no reasonable expectation that they'd be able to) are not.

It's really quite a cruel way to make a political point.
posted by boltman at 10:11 PM on March 23, 2004


"If you can't learn to share with your brothers and sisters I'm just going to have to take it away from you for awhile."
posted by ODiV at 10:17 PM on March 23, 2004


I think it's a valid action, though. If marriage is a right that people can expect to have, then it should apply to homosexuals; if not, then it's perfectly reasonable for the government to capriciously take it away. Pick one or the other.

WRT boltman's scenario, the couple could just hop next door to another county and get a license there. There's no need to be a resident of a given county (or even of Oregon State) to get a marriage license in Oregon.
posted by hattifattener at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2004


What do you do if your wedding is planned for this weekend, ...
Realise that you should have got your marriage license earlier rather than leave it until the last minute?
posted by dg at 11:11 PM on March 23, 2004


Thus spake boltman: The difference between homosexuals wanting to marry and hetrosexuals wanting to marry is that hetrosexuals could have reasonably expected to be able to get a marriage license this week. Thus, the harm inflicted is not just preventing them from marrying, but seriously disrupting plans that were already in effect.

They are not prevented from getting a marriage license at all -- they must simply drive to the next county to get one.

What do you do if your wedding is planned for this weekend, you and your future spouse have invested thousands of nonrefundable dollars in churches, caterers, musicians, etc and you have a pair of nonrefundable tickets to your honeymoon destination?

Then your planning skills are seriously impaired. I usually counsel couples to apply for their license a month in advance of the planned wedding date. Oregon licenses are good from three days after issuance until 60 days after issuance.

Unless there's some alternate way to get a marriage license in Oregon than through your county of residence,

There is: drive to the next county. Oregon has no residency requirement, and there is no requirement that you obtain your marriage license in the county of your residence. Pay the fee and present photo ID to verify that you are who you say you are.

you're seriously harmed in a way that homosexual couples unable to marry (but with no reasonable expectation that they'd be able to) are not.

It's really quite a cruel way to make a political point.


Yeah -- unlike the inconsequential harm of watching your partner of 25 years lying unconscious in the hospital while you are prevented from visiting ("you're not 'family'"), while the "real" family who disowned him because of his "perversion" 25 years ago waltzes in and begins making medical decisions in his stead. That's rational and compassionate.

If marriage is a religious rite, and its "sanctity" must be protected, then the state has no business issuing licenses in the first place -- get the hell out of church business. If marriage is, instead, a secular social contract regulated by the state, then the state should not be discriminating on the basis of the genders of the two marriage partners. If the state (and "fundamentalist" "protectors" of marriage) want to be involved, they can't have it both ways.

[disclaimer]This message brought to you by a Christian clergyman, heterosexual, and social libertarian.[/disclaimer]
posted by wdpeck at 11:11 PM on March 23, 2004


well, if there's no residency requirement, it's nearly as big a deal. I hereby retract my comment.

Where I was married (Ohio), you could only get a license in the county of residence (or the county where the marriage was being performed if you weren't a resident of Ohio) and you had to do it within 30 or 60 days (I forget which) of the wedding. Since we were both from New York, we would have had to either make a separate trip to Ohio just to get the license or settle for getting it a couple days before the wedding. In other words, if Ohio had pulled what this county in Oregan is pulling, we would have been totally screwed.

I still think this is kind of a silly stunt, though. County governments shouldn't be getting involved in the marriage issue, period. It's for the state legislatures and the courts to decide.
posted by boltman at 11:45 PM on March 23, 2004


sorry, "not nearly as big a deal."
posted by boltman at 11:47 PM on March 23, 2004


A little background on the Benton County decision (probably longer than the linked article, sorry).

The Oregon State Constitution bars descriminating against people on a basis of sexual orientation. Several prominent state and county lawyers have interpreted this as meaning it is against the law to allow strait couples to marry while banning homosexual marriage.

Meanwhile, state laws define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

I'm sure all the smart metafilterfolk see the inherint contradiction here.

The proper legal course for determining when a state law needs to be overturned because it contradicts the constitution is either:
a) through the Oregon Supreme Court, which can uphold or throw out the sub-constitution state law.
b) through the state legislature, which can pass new laws and change the ones that exist.

In Multnomah County, where Portland is, the commissioners decided that state and constitutional law contradict and they would follow the constitution and ignore the lower law. They got a legal opinion that backed their choice and started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Benton County planned to follow suit and announced plans to start on Wednesday.

But the state's attorney general said, "Whoa there." See, the Oregon Supreme Court had already agreed to expedite the process and hear a case relating to Multnomah County's decision.

The attorney general asked the Benton County officials to wait on the supreme court ruling--first, because the situation is confusing enough as it is; second, because it is the role of state, not county, government to determine the legality of state laws. He also threatened them, saying that he would might legal action if they started issuing gay marriage licenses.

The Benton County commissioners had already taken a stand--they were not going to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. But they also wanted to follow the attorney general's request. So they decided not to issue marriage licenses to anyone.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:55 PM on March 23, 2004


...might take legal action...
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:57 PM on March 23, 2004


Yeah -- unlike the inconsequential harm of watching your partner of 25 years lying unconscious in the hospital while you are prevented from visiting ("you're not 'family'"), while the "real" family who disowned him because of his "perversion" 25 years ago waltzes in and begins making medical decisions in his stead...

-wdpeck

And, not to get ugly, decisions about the estate (no matter how modest that estate may be)

Good points, wdpeck, and I dont like saying that to a Christian clergyman

On Preview: Sounds like the county court is overstepping its authority but at least it is forcing the issue.
posted by jono at 12:04 AM on March 24, 2004


I'd be more impressed with the county officials if they would have defied the AG. At least then they'd be sticking their necks out for what they believe in rather than illegally hassling their constituents to prove a fairly obvious point.
posted by boltman at 12:24 AM on March 24, 2004


boltman: I think their argument would be that:
1-They have illegally harassing their constituents (the gay ones) by not allowing homosexual marriage--the state constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
2-They are sticking their necks out.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:30 AM on March 24, 2004


i think they are making a very clear point. good for them.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:55 AM on March 24, 2004


I guess this is one way to deal with the issue of gay marriages. I wonder if they are doing it simply to protect themselves from lawsuits or as a statement in support of true equal rights?

Actually, a county commissioner was on the local news here, and their reasoning was wicked funny: they feel that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and has to stop immediately. They don't have any money, however, and fear a bunch of gay people coming and making them spend money on overtime, administrative costs, etc., so... nobody gets married. Such an awesome butting of the two heads of radical conservatism (the "deny rights based on the bible" kind and the "starve the gubmint in a bathtub" kind.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:57 AM on March 24, 2004


I must say that, if they are forced to either not allow gays to marry and continue to allow others, or to not allow anyone to marry, they have made the "right" decision and I applaud them for it. It is not often that politicians are prepared to make potentially unpopular decisions and even less often that these decisions are made with the intention of standing up for principles.
posted by dg at 1:51 AM on March 24, 2004


Interesting post, superchicken. And thank you, especially, wdpeck and croutonsupafreak.
posted by taz at 3:48 AM on March 24, 2004


Saw this in the local paper this morning (I live about a twenty minute drive from Benton County), and was, as sometimes happens, proud to live in Oregon.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:57 AM on March 24, 2004


If they come back and start offering Civil Unions to all, straight and gay alike, then I will be happy. State sacraments are foul.
posted by thirteen at 6:52 AM on March 24, 2004


Activist Commissioners are the new black.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:40 AM on March 24, 2004


(wdpeck: the example you give of the hospitalized individual and their partner is poignant. And though I won't quip that their "planning skills are seriously impaired", I would suggest that there are ways other than redefining marriage to address the very real — and painful — issues raised... beginning with proper assignment of power-of-attorney, and overhauling archaic visiting protocols.)
posted by silusGROK at 8:21 AM on March 24, 2004


do we stop all trials because some people can't get a fair one? do we stop all policing because some people are racially profiled? do we cease providing welfare benefits because they are sometimes handed out discriminatorily? do we stop enforcing civil rights because not all oppressed groups are protected by them?

even though it's apparently not preventing anyone from marrying, it sucks as a symbolism since it's message is: we're willing to deny everyone else a fundamental right in order to pressure the state to provide a similar fundamental right to a group we care about.
posted by boltman at 8:43 AM on March 24, 2004


Those of you who cheer this act will also cheer when Southern states refuse to issue teaching certificates until 'creation theory' is treated equally to other theories, right?

And when their state medical boards refuse to grant doctors medical liscenses until med school curricula give as much time to 'Christian abortion alternatives' as they do to abortion training?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Municiple disobedience is going to come back to bite you on the ass. Just because it's now being used to support an issue you agree with doesn't mean that it won't be used against you in the future.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:45 AM on March 24, 2004


it sucks as a symbolism since it's message is: we're willing to deny everyone else a fundamental right in order to pressure the state to provide a similar fundamental right to a group we care about.

Yeah, fighting for equal rights really sucks sometimes.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:57 AM on March 24, 2004


I think this is a great way to make a statement - way to go, Oregon. Some friends of mine who are active in their Unitarian church have said that the ministers are considering not signing marriage certificates for heterosexual weddings they perform as long as they can't legally marry homosexuals. I'm iffy on the details, but I think the couples would simply have to get a signature from town hall instead.

wdpeck, you shine brightly. Thank you.
posted by widdershins at 9:16 AM on March 24, 2004


That's great.

And when the Mississippi state college funding board decides to withhold disbursements of financial aid to college students in that state because 'minority scholarship programs discriminate against white students' will you also stand up for them?

After all, they'll say they are fighting against discrimination and for equal rights, too.
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:23 AM on March 24, 2004


This thread just goes to prove how wacky and insane the USA is. Either you're extreme left or extreme right. Is the US becoming as polarised as I imagine? Where are the moderates, the common sense?!
posted by SpaceCadet at 9:28 AM on March 24, 2004


Where are the moderates, the common sense?!

I think they're busy watching Jerry Springer.
posted by badstone at 9:49 AM on March 24, 2004


>What do you do if your wedding is planned for this weekend
>Where are the moderates, the common sense?!
Drilling Sir! This reminds me of a boot camp tactic, you're a 1 and like it. Isn't this a tactic that makes terrorism successful.

Actually, a county commissioner was on the local news here, and their reasoning was wicked funny: they feel that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and has to stop immediately. They don't have any money, however, and fear a bunch of gay people coming and making them spend money on overtime, administrative costs, etc., so... nobody gets married.

Now the truth comes out, they only care about the 1 in their community.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:49 AM on March 24, 2004


I think they're busy watching Jerry Springer.

So you read "moderate" as "apathetic"? No seriously, I'm interested in hearing a moderate view coming out of the US. It's so rare nowadays. These days it seems either a US county is saying homosexuality is a crime against nature or another bans ALL marriages - nothing is making sense any more.

I'm glad I don't live in the US.
posted by SpaceCadet at 10:06 AM on March 24, 2004


What's really interesting is how the gay marriage issue has so completely snowballed this past year. Why the sudden shift? What made it hit critical mass?

It's also interesting to see how the American and Canadian approaches differ. In Canada, the issue pretty much shot straight up to the highest level of the justice system. In the USA, it seems to be much more a grassroots thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:14 AM on March 24, 2004


Drilling Sir! This reminds me of a boot camp tactic, you're a 1 and like it. Isn't this a tactic that makes terrorism successful.

thomcatspike, don't worry, I'm not going to get dragged into any particular topic other than: can you hold a point of view in the US that isn't extreme left or right? Whenever someone straddles the middleground, somebody throws that moderate view into one extreme stereotype or another, causing a typically polarised debate. Do Americans not accept hues and shades of opinion anymore? Do Americans hold a pre-fabricated set of morals and opinions, all geared to one side of the political spectrum or the other?
posted by SpaceCadet at 10:17 AM on March 24, 2004


fff, this issue came to national attention because of gays and lesbians working quietly and diligently in the background for their civil rights. If you work hard enough, eventually you reach the 'tipping point'. We seem to have achieved that with the issue of gay marriage.

Things might get worse before they get better, but I think the battle has been won in the long run. It took decades for interracial marriages to be made legal throughout the United States, it could take decades for gays and lesbians, but at least we're on the right track now.

In more direct answer to your question, gays and lesbians sued for the right to marry in Massachusettes and the Supreme Court of Massachusettes ruled in their favor, thus sparking a national debate because of the 'full faith and credit' clause.

Of course, being an election year and pandering to the right wing certainly helps to stoke the flames as well.
posted by PigAlien at 10:28 AM on March 24, 2004


What's really interesting is how the gay marriage issue has so completely snowballed this past year. Why the sudden shift? What made it hit critical mass?
I think the rightwing railing against it so much has made it such a big deal more than the Mass. case (and I include Bush and his little amendment pandering in that). It's the same principle that makes Repub talking points the issues of the day on tv. They made this a big talking point, and it's running away from them.
posted by amberglow at 10:34 AM on March 24, 2004


can you hold a point of view in the US that isn't extreme left or right?
Living by the laws of the land which most were created before my birth, would say yes but being human no. Really I'm still figuring what is actually "left" or "right" in the US. As in other countries they're reversed.
Looking here and what is happening here you see "left" thinking reinforced with "right" authority.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:35 AM on March 24, 2004


can you hold a point of view in the US that isn't extreme left or right?

Sure you can, but who's going to care? The only people who care about specific issues typically have a horse in the race, so to speak. For example, I care very much about gay marriage because I'd like one right away, thank you very much. People on the religious right care very much because they think that it'll cause the collapse of Western civilization - just like any move toward secularization. I suspect most people simply don't care that much either way.

Whenever someone straddles the middleground, somebody throws that moderate view into one extreme stereotype or another, causing a typically polarised debate. Do Americans not accept hues and shades of opinion anymore? Do Americans hold a pre-fabricated set of morals and opinions, all geared to one side of the political spectrum or the other?

I suspect that, in general, most people in the middle of an issue simply haven't thought too much about that issue, or that issue just doesn't affect them enough for them to care.

I don't think it's as simple as "one side of the political spectrum or the other," though.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:58 AM on March 24, 2004


I suspect that, in general, most people in the middle of an issue simply haven't thought too much about that issue, or that issue just doesn't affect them enough for them to care.

It's not so much "middle of an issue" (in which I think you imply that someone doesn't have a strong opinion on an issue), it's moderate views in general. Someone who is not left nor right - they simply apply critical thinking to each and every issue without a left/right bias.

Maybe it's just I've read too much on Metafilter, but this seems specific to a lot of things I read coming out of the US (either posts made here or news articles). Almost everything is saturated by left or right bias - nothing inbetween.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:26 PM on March 24, 2004


but there are gradations, SpaceCadet--a site like Slate or Salon is very softly/slightly left, while the Washington Post is softly/slightly right, I would say, while FreeRepublic or Wash. Times or NYPost or FOX are all very right, and Democratic Underground is very left. (and then there's the whole right on economics, but left socially thing, and vice versa)
posted by amberglow at 1:49 PM on March 24, 2004


Almost everything is saturated by left or right bias - nothing inbetween.
They're the ones voting.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:43 PM on March 24, 2004


nothing inbetween: don't vote as them seem: "sick of it all and don't care anymore."
posted by thomcatspike at 2:44 PM on March 24, 2004


SpaceCadet, in the US you have to learn to take any news reporting with a grain of salt and heaping spoonful of reason. It's the only defense against American news, which often derails from objective reporting to ratings-boosting sensationalism.

The best way to get news in my opinion is not from one single source, but many different sources and hopefully you'll have enough information by then to make your own decision... which in many cases is that it's not a big deal.
posted by superchicken at 2:46 PM on March 24, 2004


Adding to superchicken comment: new is information that the news source wants you to know.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:44 PM on March 24, 2004


Commercial media news exists for one sole purpose: to sell your own eyeballs to their advertisers.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:10 PM on March 24, 2004


there is a lack of outspoken moderates in this country, but i'd say that because they're in the middle they don't feel strongly enough for a particular issue to throw themselves sufficiently behind it to get involved. A true extremist will volunteer (time and money) and change thier life in order to help thier chosen cause. Someone who is a moderate more likely thinks about hte issues and makes a decision, but is not willing to throw away thier time on it.

As for balanced news i trust more in sites like fark or metafilter to give me multiple sources of the "facts" and then to take some of my own brain power to decide what's likely true. oh, and of course the daily show to make it all entertaining. Anything more then a headline can be expected to be full of spin.
posted by NGnerd at 7:43 PM on March 24, 2004


Commercial media news exists for one sole purpose: to sell your own eyeballs to their advertisers.

Yes....it's just that these days, the manipulation is so transparent (at least to me) toward political agenda/ulterior motive - some news articles are mere vehicles for an agenda not uttered by word, but instead by implication, to influence the disengaged viewer.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:01 AM on March 25, 2004


I'd add that if you don't subscribe to any particular political viewpoint, it's even more transparent. Anything deemed "rightwing" gets the lefties frothing at the mouth and fellow conservatives applauding....or vice versa. Political polar opposites tend to react instinctively against each other, no matter what the policy - no matter even if their internal common sense agrees with the "enemy" sometimes - they cannot be seen to be actually....ahh!....AGREEING with each other. Sometimes I think we never really leave the schoolyard.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:07 AM on March 25, 2004


If only we had a president who was a uniter, not a divider.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:26 PM on March 25, 2004


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