- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Oregon Supreme Court yesterday invalidated 3,000 homosexual “marriages” conducted a year ago in Multnomah County, saying the county could not subvert state matrimonial law.

“[T]he county did not have authority to issue the licenses for the marriages in question,” said the unanimous opinion, written by Justice W. Michael Gillette. The opinion reversed a lower court decision.

The high court sidestepped the issue of marital benefits for same-sex couples, which it said “is not properly before us.”

Traditional-values groups cheered the ruling. It’s a “blowout win,” said Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund, which supported the Defense of Marriage Coalition in Oregon.

Kelly Clark, the coalition’s lead attorney, said the court recognized Multnomah County, which includes most of the city of Portland and is the state’s most populous, “was out of control.”

Homosexual rights groups took comfort in the court’s silence on benefits.

“We feel enormous sadness knowing that thousands of same-sex couples who recently celebrated their first anniversaries as married couples have had those marriages painfully revoked,” said the leaders of Basic Rights Oregon.

They also said, “nothing about this decision” stops activists from advocating for civil unions in the courts or legislature. “Continuing that fight is exactly what we will do.”

Earlier this week, Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski, a Democrat, said he will push for a civil union law.

Yesterday’s ruling in Li v. State of Oregon comes little more than a year after Multnomah County officials, inspired by officials in San Francisco who were “marrying” homosexual couples, decided they were violating state equality law by denying “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples.

Between March 3 and April 20, when Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Frank Bearden ordered them to stop, the Multnomah officials “married” some 3,000 same-sex couples.

Judge Bearden then ruled the 3,000 “marriages” were legal. He also ordered Oregon lawmakers to find a way to provide marital benefits to same-sex couples.

The Oregon Supreme Court reversed not only Judge Bearden’s validation of the 3,000 “marriages” but his order to the legislature to provide benefits to such couples.

“The trial court … improperly went beyond the pleadings in fashioning the particular remedy that it chose,” the high court said.

It further ruled that Oregon’s new constitutional marriage amendment is legal and enforceable. The amendment, passed by voters in November, says “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.”

This decision “makes it clear that the people in the states who pass these marriage amendments have done something that really can prevent the courts from acting outside their authority,” said Bill Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation in Provo, Utah, which tracks marriage issues.

Still, this may not be the Oregon high court’s last word on the amendment. In January, Basic Rights Oregon filed a lawsuit challenging the amendment’s constitutionality.

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