Oregon Marriage Measure 36 (2004)

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The Oregon Ballot Measure 36 was on the November 2, 2004 ballot in Oregon as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure banned same-sex marriages by only recognizing marriage between one man and one woman as valid. Almost ten years later, the measure was overturned on May 19, 2014.[1]


Four gay and lesbian couples took the measure to court, and argued the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminated against them and excluded them from a fundamental right to marriage. On May 19, 2014, Judge Michael McShane of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon overturned the marriage ban, making Oregon the seventh state to have such measures overturned by judges. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) had refused to defend it in court. Roseblum said that there were no legal arguments that could support it in light of the 2013 decisions regarding same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the week prior to his decision, Judge McShane denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law on behalf of its Oregon members. The National Organization for Marriage filed an emergency appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asking for a stay of a ruling that prohibited it from defending the state’s ban. The appeal was quickly denied. Gay rights groups claimed to have enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage in November 2014, but also said that they would discard the signatures and drop the campaign if the court ruled in their favor by May 23.[1][2][3][4]

Election results

Oregon Measure 36 (2004)
OverturnedotOverturned Case:Rummell and West v. Kitzhaber 6:2013cv02256
Yes 1,028,546 56.63%

Election results via: Oregon Blue Book website, accessed December 16, 2013

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot title for Measure 36 was:

Amends Constitution: Only Marriage Between One Man and One Woman Is Valid or Legally Recognized as Marriage[5]

RESULT OF "YES" VOTE: "Yes" vote adds to Oregon constitution declaration of policy that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or legally recognized as marriage.

RESULT OF "NO" VOTE: "No" vote retains existing constitution without a provision declaring that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or legally recognized as marriage.[5][6]


The official ballot summary for Measure 36 was:

Amends constitution. Oregon statutes currently provide that marriage is a civil contract entered into in person between individuals of the opposite sex, that is, between males and females at least 17 years of age who solemnize the marriage by declaring "they take each other to be husband and wife." The existing Oregon Constitution contains no provision governing marriage. Currently, the State of Oregon recognizes out-of-state marriages that are valid in the state where performed, unless the marriage violates a strong public policy of Oregon. Measure adds to Oregon Constitution a declaration that the policy of the State of Oregon and its political subdivisions is that "only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage."[5][6]

Full text

The full text of the constitutional changes enacted by Measure 36 was:

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.[5][6]


Supporters of the measure argued that traditional family values would be under attack as long as same-sex marriage was permitted. Some argued that children raised without a mother and a father would not be emotionally or physically "healthy," and that foster children would be more likely to be placed in same-sex households if homosexual marriage was "normalized."[7]

While certain supporters pointed out that Measure 36 was not about "hate," but about promoting a common good for Oregon, others such as the Traditional Prejudices Coalition took a stronger stance, calling homosexuals a "perverted" part of society and stating that those who do not follow the Bible will "burn in hell."

Some of the other supporters included:

  • State Representative Susan Morgan
  • Stronger Families for Oregon
  • Restore America
  • Representative Wayne Krieger
  • Parents Education Association
  • Senator Roger Beyer
  • Clark Brody Retired Superintendent, Oregon Department of Education
  • Gary George, State Senator
  • Defense of Marriage Coalition
  • Family Research Council
  • City Bible Church
  • New Hope Community Church
  • Cedar Mill Bible Church


This measure was opposed by many people and organizations, including a number of churches and religious groups, who argued that Measure 36 wrongly allowed discrimination to be a part of the Oregon Constitution. Many pointed out that "love" should be the only deciding factor in whether a marriage is considered valid.[8]

Some of those who opposed the measure include:

  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Community of Welcoming Congregations
  • Planned Parenthood of the Columbia Willamette
  • Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ
  • Religious Response Network
  • The National Organization for Women, Corvallis Chapter
  • National Association of Social Workers, Oregon Chapter
  • Administrative Council of the University Park United Methodist Church
  • Outright Libertarians
  • State Rep. Kelley Wirth
  • State Senator Vicki L. Walker
  • The Session of Southminster Presbyterian Church

Campaign finance

$2,455,816 was spent by the "yes" campaign and $2,967,012 was spent by the "no" campaign.[9]


Larger donors to the pro-campaign were:

  • Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc., $410,000.
  • Focus on the Family, $138,364.
  • Gateway Communications, $120,439.
  • Neil Nedelisky, $101,000.


Larger donors to the anti-campaign were:

Related measures

Voters in 30 states have approved legislatively-referred constitutional amendments or initiated constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriages at the ballot box. The first constitutional prohibition was in 1998, and the latest one occurred in May 2012. Most of these amendments define marriage along the lines of a "union of one male and one female."


The following constitutional bans were approved by voters, but later overturned by courts:


Cases overturning the following bans have been appealed to higher courts and are currently stayed:

Note: Same-sex marriage is legal in St. Louis County and the state recognizes same-sex marriages.


The following constitutional bans were approved by voters and have been upheld or not overturned by courts:


The following constitutional bans were defeated by voters:

Note: Arizonans defeated a measure in 2006, but approved one in 2008, which has been overturned.

See also

External links

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