Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum will not defend a ban on same-sex marriage.
"The constitution has been violated in our opinion by this state provision," Rosenblum said in a press conference after filing the state's response in a lawsuit filed by four same-sex couples.
“State Defendants will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation,” Rosenblum wrote in the government response. “Rather, they will take the position in their summary judgment briefing that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review. In the meantime, as the State Defendants are legally obligated to enforce the Oregon Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage, they will continue to do so unless and until this Court grants the relief sought by the plaintiffs.”
Oregon Lawyers Lake Perriguey and Lee Ann Easton filed a federal suit on behalf of two couples Oct. 15 alleging Oregon’s ban against same-sex marriage violated their clients’ constitutional rights -- as did refusing to recognize marriages performed in states where same-sex marriage.
The next day Oregon’s deputy attorney general announced Oregon would begin to recognize marriages performed in other states. But she left the larger question of allowing same-sex marriages to the court.
“The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional,” the brief reads. “Denying gay men and lesbians the fundamental right to wed the partner of their choosing offends basic principles of due process and equal protection.”
Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s largest gay rights advocacy group, and the ACLU followed two months later with a lawsuit on behalf of two additional couples. The cases have been consolidated and oral arguments are scheduled for April.
“I’m thrilled that the Attorney General, the Governor and the Registrar have come out,” Perriguey said Thursday. "Since we filed the case in October, five federal judges and the entire supreme court of NM have recognized that marriage is a fundamental right. It’s a happy day when our government officials recognize that too.”