In June 2013, the Supreme Court issued two rulings that quite possibly permanently changed the face of marriage in the United States: In one, the Justices struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), making same-sex spouses eligible for the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples, such as social security and – in the case of the plaintiff in this case – exemption from estate taxes. In the second ruling, the Court elected not to hear an appeal of a California lower-court decision striking down Proposition 8 – which prevented same-sex couples from marrying – as unconstitutional.
Because the Court struck down DOMA, plaintiffs in states where same-sex marriage is illegal can now argue that since the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, so must the state. Same-sex marriage advocates in many states – including Oregon – are moving forward with legal challenges.
More than one third of the states have already legalized gay marriage. In Oregon, gay marriage licenses were both approved and retracted in 2004. A 2013 poll shows 49% of Oregonians in favor of changing the constitution in support of same-sex marriage, and organizations are mobilizing to put a measure on the 2014 ballot.
Edited to add [5/20/14]. Yesterday, Federal Judge Michael J. McShane struck down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage that resulted from the successful 2004 ballot measure (Measure 36) amending the state constitution to define marriage as a union of "one man and one woman." "Because Oregon's marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest," McShane wrote in his decision, "the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
The plaintiffs in the case, Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson Geiger, (pictured above) were the first couple to marry in Multnomah County following the decision. Nearly 100 other same-sex couples also obtained licenses from Multnomah County on May 19.
No matter what, if legalization of same-sex marriage passes, the one thing it guarantees is to bring more money to the wedding industry, as evidenced in states where it already exists, like New York and Massachusetts.