- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers yesterday said state law prohibits same-sex “marriage,” but he did not forbid the practice, leaving if for the state supreme court, which does not have any related cases pending.

Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, is now the only place in the United States issuing “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples.

Stephanie Soden, a county spokeswoman, said that the county would continue issuing marriage licenses although they are “looking into” Mr. Myers’ opinion.

“We can state confidently that existing Oregon statutes limit the grant of marriage licenses to one man and one woman,” Mr. Myers said in a nonbinding, 11-page opinion.

He added, “our best prediction” is that the Oregon Supreme Court would find that denying homosexuals’ “marriage” licenses would violate the state constitution.

Earlier this month, Multnomah County commissioners received legal advice from county attorney Agnes Sowle that said “gender and sexual orientation” were both “classes entitled to constitutional protection.”

Multnomah County officials were therefore prohibited from discriminating against same-sex couples in their “marriage” policies, and didn’t need permission from “the legislature, attorney general or the court” to change their policies, Ms. Sowle wrote.

County officials have since issued “marriage” licenses to some 2,000 same-sex couples.

On Monday, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Dale Koch declined to order the county to stop issuing the licenses. Yesterday, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Frank Bearden set a March 26 date for the county to return and explain its actions.

Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski, a Democrat, said yesterday he hoped Multnomah County officials would “follow the state law” and that other Oregon counties would “apply the current law as the attorney general has recommended to us.”

Tim Nashif, spokesman for the Defense of Marriage Coalition, which supports traditional marriage, said Mr. Myers’ ruling was clear that the four county commissioners who authorized the licenses were “outside the law.”

The coalition is currently working on getting a measure before the voters that will ask them to define marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

Supporters of same-sex “marriage” in Oregon include Basic Rights Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meanwhile, Lambda Legal filed its third “freedom to marry” lawsuit in recent weeks.

Yesterday’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of California couples who were denied “marriage” licenses in San Francisco after Thursday’s California Supreme Court injunction on the licenses. The lawsuit seeks “marriage” rights for homosexuals throughout California.

Lambda Legal filed similar lawsuits this month in New York and Washington state.

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