Employers need to be ready for end of Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban

The end of Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage means employers need to take a look at their benefits policies and what laws require in terms of married couples.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled on May 19 that the ban on same-sex marriage, which was added to the state constitution after voters passed Measure 36 in 2004, violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling made Oregon the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage. Then on May 20, Pennsylvania joined took the list to 19 states when another federal judge overturned that state’s ban. In addition to the 19 states, Washington, D.C., also allows same-sex marriages.

Calvin Keith, a partner in the Portland office of the Perkins Coie law firm, said the ruling doesn’t mean major changes for many employers since many already provide benefits to same-sex couples. “It’s required in the public sector and since 2008, same-sex couples have been able to register as domestic partners,” he said. “We already have a nondiscrimination law, and our state leave law recognized same-sex relationships. Accordingly, many employers will observe little change.”

However, employers will need to update some benefits policies and expand rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act to married same-sex couples, Keith said.

McShane’s ruling is being appealed. News outlets report that the National Organization for Marriage has filed a motion with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to block the ruling.