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Ore. county halts issuance of all marriage licenses

CORVALLIS, Ore. (BP)–Same-sex couples hoping to acquire marriage licenses in Benton County, Ore., and Sandoval County, N.M., won’t be able to do so, at least for the time being.

Benton County, Ore., which had planned on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples March 24, reversed its earlier decision and went one step further, refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone — heterosexual or homosexual — until state courts decide the issue.

In addition, a New Mexico judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap, telling her not to issue the licenses to homosexual couples.

The news means that the Portland area — more specifically, Multnomah County, Ore. — is the only locality in America where marriages license are being given to same-sex couples, even though Oregon law prevents such unions.

The Benton County decision to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether came as state officials moved to expedite the case to the Oregon Supreme Court.

“Since last week’s Benton County decision, there have been significant movements and agreements to accelerate consideration of this issue to the State Courts and this is where the ultimate resolution must take place,” Benton County Commission Chair Linda Modrell said in a statement. “So we are respecting the Attorney General’s request that we temporarily postpone issuing same-sex marriage licenses.”

Modrell added that in order to “maintain consistency” with the state Constitution’s “anti-discrimination provisions,” the county would stop issuing marriage licenses to “any couple.”

Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, who previously had said that Oregon law limited marriage to one man and one woman, said he was pleased with the county’s action.

“The decision ensures that marriage licenses will not be issued in violation of Oregon statutes in Benton County,” he said in a statement. “I thank the commissioners for delaying action now that we have agreed on expedited proceedings in Multnomah County. It is my sincere hope that legal process will provide clarity for each of Oregon’s counties.”

In New Mexico, state district Judge Kenneth Brown issued a temporary restraining order against Dunlap March 23, after she announced plans to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Brown set an April 2 court hearing date, the Associated Press reported. The request was filed jointly by a county and state attorney on behalf of New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, AP said. Madrid is a Democrat.

Dunlap had issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples Feb. 20, only to have Madrid issue an advisory letter saying the licenses were illegal.

“Thus, in my judgment, no county clerk should issue a marriage license to same sex couples because those licenses would be invalid under current law,” Madrid wrote.

Dunlap halted her actions, only to say March 22 that she would begin again issuing the licenses to homosexuals.

More than 20 same-sex couples were waiting in line March 23, hoping to get marriage licenses, when the restraining order was issued, according to The Albuquerque Tribune.
For more information about the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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