Ballot Measure 36
was a 2004 initiative
in the U.S. state
. It amended the Oregon Constitution
to define marriage
as a union of one man and one woman. The initiative passed with 1,028,546 votes in favor, and 787,556 votes against (57% to 43%) in the November 2
, 2004 general election
. It is one of a number of initiatives promoted in the United States
, generally known as defense of marriage amendments
Amendment to Constitution
Measure 36 added the following text to Article 15 of the Oregon Constitution, as Section 5a:
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.
The measure was placed on the ballot through an initiative petition
brought by the Defense of Marriage Coalition
, a group dedicated to "preserving marriage as a union only between one man and one woman." The group was formed in reaction to same-sex marriages performed in Multnomah County
and Benton County
after their respective county commissions
interpreted the Oregon Constitution and Oregon law as authorizing the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Supporters of the measure, in addition to opposing same-sex marriage on principle, were also angry by the controversial means by which the Multnomah County Commission had come to its decision: no public hearings were held before the commission voted to allow the marriages and one of the commissioners, Lonnie Roberts, was not informed of the move until after the other commissioners began issuing licenses. Roberts criticized the "clandestine way" that the decision was made and speculated that he had not been included in the discussion because the other commissioners knew that he wouldn't support their decision. Supporters also wanted to prevent the state courts from coming to the same conclusion as the county commissions--that the state constitution and law required the government to license same-sex marriage--before several standing civil rights
lawsuits on the issue could be resolved.
Basic Rights Oregon led the campaign against Measure 36. Opponents of the measure made several arguments. Many were supporters of same-sex marriage. In addition, some argued that regardless of voters' feelings on same-sex marriage, the state constitution was an inappropriate place to dictate marriage policy, which should have been statutory. Opponents also argued that the measure added discriminatory language to the state constitution, which, they predicted, would later be seen in the same negative light as earlier constitutional language against African Americans. They also feared that the measure could be used as a legal basis for denying benefits to same-sex couples which are automatically granted to heterosexual married couples.
M. Dennis Moore
, a Portland
, wrote satirical
arguments on several Oregon ballot measures, including Measure 36. Moore's arguments, ostensibly in favor of the measure, were printed in the official voter's pamphlet
. For example, reacting to some supporters' claims that the purpose of marriage is for procreation
, he argues that "couples who fail to conceive within two years ought to have their marriage licenses revoked." Measure 36 supporters criticized the placement of Moore's arguments in the "Arguments in Favor" section of the pamphlet, but the Oregon Secretary of State
's Office countered they had no choice under the law but to print his arguments as specified.