SALEM, Ore. (BP)–In the third setback in two days for same-sex “marriage” supporters, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said March 12 that state law “unquestionably” limits marriage to one man and one woman.
But Myers added that the Oregon Supreme Court likely would find that current law violates the state constitution, if a case made it that far.
Myers issued an opinion on the legality of same-sex “marriage” in reaction to actions in Multnomah County, Ore., where officials began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples March 3. It was not immediately clear whether officials in the county would halt their actions. Portland sits in Multnomah County.
“They should apply the existing law as the attorney general has recommended to us,” Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said at a news conference. “It is still the law of this state. There has been no Supreme Court decision that’s definitive on this issue.”
It was the third setback in two days for same-sex “marriage.” California’s high court told San Francisco to stop same-sex “marriages” March 11, the same day that Massachusetts legislators moved one step closer toward passing a state constitutional marriage amendment.
In issuing his 11-page opinion, Myers said state law “without any question” defines marriage in the traditional sense.
Pointing to statutes that refer to husbands and wives, Myers wrote: “[W]e conclude that existing Oregon statutes authorize issuance of a marriage license only to one man and one woman.”
The opinion, though, came with a caveat: The Oregon Supreme Court likely would rule that “withholding from same-sex couples the legal rights, benefits and obligations” of marriage violates Article 1, section 20 of the state constitution.
That section reads: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”
Harvy wrote: “If the Oregon courts conclude that the statute classifies on the basis of gender, the likelihood that they would find that limitation unconstitutional is very high.”
He added that the conclusions “we have reached are not without doubt.”
The opinion likely will add to the push to pass a state amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage. Conservative leaders in Oregon are beginning a petition drive to place an amendment before voters this fall. They need 100,000 signatures by July. They have set up a website: www.defenseofmarriagecoalition.org.
“The attorney general’s opinion underscores our urgent need to amend the constitution so as to stipulate that marriage in Oregon is only between one man and one woman,” said Kelly Boggs, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore. He writes a weekly column for Baptist Press.
For more information on the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at: