PORTLAND, Ore. (BP)–Defying state law and ignoring the conclusion of the state’s attorney general, officials in the Portland, Ore., area announced March 15 they will continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
With a court halting San Francisco’s same-sex “marriages,” Multnomah County, where Portland sits, remains the only place in the nation that continues to perform the unions.
“Multnomah County will continue to issue marriage licenses to all couples, consistent with the Oregon Constitution, until such time as the Supreme Court of Oregon or the citizens of Oregon dictate another course of action,” Multnomah County board of commissioners chair Diane M. Linn said in a statement.
Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers released an opinion March 12 saying that current state law “unquestionably” limits marriage to one man and one woman. But Myers added that the current law likely would be found to violate the state’s constitution, if a case made it to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski encouraged the county to follow state law during a March 12 news conference. The county has issued some 2,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“They should apply the existing law as the attorney general has recommended to us,” Kulongoski said. “It is still the law of this state. There has been no Supreme Court decision that’s definitive on this issue.”
Several pro-family groups have sued to have the licenses declared invalid and to halt the county’s actions.
In her statement Linn said county officials would work to have the Supreme Court decide the issue.
“[T]he attorney general’s opinion offers no assurance whatsoever that Multnomah County will not be sued successfully by any same sex couple who is denied a license while it waits for the issue to get to the Supreme Court,” Linn said.
Oregon law reads: “Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age …” Other parts of state law refer to a “husband” and “wife.”
Pro-family leaders in Oregon are beginning a petition drive to put a state constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot this fall. It would protect the traditional definition of marriage, thus banning same-sex “marriages.”
The petition needs 100,000 signatures by July. The group has launched a website: www.defenseofmarriagecoalition.org.
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