- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

From combined dispatches

New York’s attorney general yesterday said that homosexual “marriages” in his state are illegal, even though he opposes the law himself.

“I personally would like to see the law changed, but must respect the law as it now stands,” Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said in a statement saying that state law bars such unions and that it is the job of courts, not elected officials, to decide whether the law is constitutional.

New York City’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, also said such “marriages” are illegal. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican, vowed to enforce the law, but declined to discuss his views on the issue, saying they don’t matter.

“I think that people that want to change the marriage laws should go to Albany. That’s where laws are made,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “For those that want to grandstand and recommend that we break the law, I think their time would be much better spent in trying to actually effect the change that they say they want.”

Meanwhile yesterday, another front in the battle over same-sex “marriage” opened in Portland, Ore., where county officials issued dozens of licenses to homosexual couples after deciding that Oregon law allowed the unions.

“We will not allow discrimination to continue when the constitution of the state of Oregon grants privileges equally to all citizens,” Commissioner Lisa Naito said at a news conference.

About 300 homosexual couples lined up to get licenses yesterday after Multnomah County officials decided it would be unconstitutional to deny them.

Among those getting licenses was Christine Tanner, who won a landmark Oregon court ruling in 1998 ordering state and local governments to offer benefits to their employees’ homosexual partners.

“There are only so many big events in people’s lives — birth, marriage and death,” said Miss Tanner, who has raised two children with her partner of 19 years. “It’s a big deal. For us, this is symbolic.”

Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski , a Democrat, said he favors civil unions but questioned the legality of the “marriages.”

“Reasonable people can differ, but I think when you read [the state marriage statute] at the time in history when the statute was written, I think it is clear they were thinking about a man and a woman getting married,” the Democrat said.

Oregon’s Republican leadership demanded that state officials stop the “marriages” immediately.

“I’m very upset that this travesty is taking place in Oregon. It definitely is an insult to the voters and to the people,” said Kevin Mannix, chairman of the state Republican Party.

In New York, where one mayor has conducted 25 same-sex “marriages” in the past week, the attorney general’s opinion did not deter a second mayor from announcing that he would conduct such ceremonies this week and that he intends to “marry” his own homosexual partner.

“What do you do when you’re faced with injustice?” said Mayor John Shields of Nyack. “What did the women do in the suffrage movement? They marched. They were arrested. They did what they had to do to get their rights.”

Jason West, the mayor of New Paltz who already faces criminal charges for conducting such unions, said he will conduct another 10 to 20 this weekend.

The Ulster County district attorney has charged him with 19 criminal counts for some of the “marriages” he already has conducted, but the prosecutor lacks the authority to stop him from performing more. Mr. West pleaded not guilty to the charges yesterday afternoon.

“The constitution is clear that I cannot discriminate in who I marry,” Mr. West said.

Village Trustee Robert Hebel said he intends to seek a temporary restraining order today to stop Mr. West from “marrying” same-sex couples.

In California, the Campaign for California Families demanded that Attorney General Bill Lockyer follow the lead of New York officials and file criminal charges against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was the first to issue licenses to homosexual couples.

Lockyer spokeswoman Hallye Jordan said that although it is a misdemeanor to “marry” a same-sex couple in California, “the attorney general believes the best way to resolve the issue is to seek a final resolution by the California Supreme Court, which we are aggressively pursuing.”

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