Implications of Monday’s Federal Court Decision Striking Down Oregon’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

May, 2014

On Monday, a federal judge in Oregon struck down Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, saying, “with discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.” A short time later, Multnomah County began issuing its first same-sex marriage licenses since 2003.

This decision is not surprising, as Oregon’s DOJ opined in February that Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban could not withstand scrutiny under the federal constitution, and Oregon’s federal district has now joined 13 other courts in striking down same-sex marriage bans in their states. So what does this mean in the employment law context?

Oregon has long recognized same-sex domestic partnerships, and it has been recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages since February. Now, under Oregon law, the definition of spouse will include same-sex marriages lawfully performed in Oregon. Furthermore, because the federal government allows states to create their own definitions of marriage for federal purposes, this decision also means that the federal definition of spouse includes same-sex marriages lawfully performed in Oregon. This primarily impacts OFLA and FMLA, but it will also change the definition of a spouse for any other Oregon or federal law.

For additional guidance on how this decision affects your HR practices, contact Cascade today.


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