Oregon AG to implement gay marriage if ban falls

Written by The Associated Press March 19, 2014 04:45 am

PORTLAND — Oregon's attorney general told a federal court Tuesday why she believes the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages violates the federal constitutional rights of homosexual couples. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum added that Oregon is prepared to implement gay marriages if a federal judge strikes down the ban.

Rosenblum announced last month that she would not defend the state's same-sex marriage ban in court.

Two lawsuits alleging that Oregon's 2004 ban violates the U.S. Constitution have been consolidated. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane has scheduled April 23 oral arguments.

In a 35-page brief filed Tuesday, Rosenblum said there is no rational justification for maintaining the gay marriage ban, The Oregonian reported. She also said that federal constitutional protections for same-sex couples have become clear since Oregon voters approved the ban.

Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is not a redefinition of marriage, the attorney general wrote. Instead, she said the plaintiffs in this case "seek the same right to marry that the state offers opposite-sex couples and not a right to any newly invented form of marriage."

Court rulings that have affected the national debate include the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision to strike down part of the federal law that prevented the government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also recently found that gays and lesbians cannot be precluded from jury duty because of their sexual orientation. That ruling extended civil rights protections to gays that the U.S. Supreme Court previously promised only to women and racial minorities.

The two decisions create an atmosphere that Rosenblum and several other attorneys general believe will make defenses of gay-marriage bans unlikely to succeed.

Oregon's marriage ban cannot survive "when it is apparent that the reason for the ban was to enshrine in the state constitution a belief that same-sex couples are disfavored," Rosenblum wrote.

Mike Marshall, the campaign manager for Oregon United for Marriage, was delighted.

"We are literally counting down the days until all loving and committed couples in Oregon have the freedom to marry, and we are thrilled that the attorney general is on the right side of history," he said.

The group is leading an initiative campaign that would overturn Oregon's ban. Marshall has previously said the group may not seek to put its measure on the ballot if McShane rules against the ban.

Officials of the Oregon Family Council, which has supported the prohibition on same-sex marriage, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, criticized Rosenblum's earlier announcement that she would not defend the ban, saying she was "shamefully abandoning her constitutional duty to defend the marriage amendment overwhelmingly enacted by the people of Oregon."

In several other states, federal judges have voided all or part of voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage. Appeals are pending.