Multnomah County will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as a federal court judge determines Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, county attorney Jenny Madkour wrote today in a response to a lawsuit filed against county and state officials.

"Current Oregon law discriminates against same-sex couples seeking to marry," Madkour wrote. "The guarantees of the United States Constitution, however, extend to all Oregonians, regardless of whom they choose to love and with whom they choose to make a life. Oregon's exclusionary marriage laws should be struck down."

She said Multnomah County would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as it receives clear direction "from the courts, the voters, the Legislature, or the Attorney General of Oregon that it is legal to do so."

In a supporting brief, Marissa Madrigal, chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, expressed regret that the county cannot begin issuing marriage licenses until a formal ruling.

The county and gay rights advocates took heat in 2004 when they surprised everyone by beginning to marry gay couples in Portland. Many credit the subsequent backlash from the religious right with helping to pass Measure 36, which amended the constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Four couples filed suit in federal court last year asking a judge to rule that the amendment violates their federal rights. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Governor John Kitzhaber have declined to defend the ban.  And today Multnomah county also declined to defend the ban.

"The County does not currently issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because state law bars that action," Madrigal wrote. "If same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses at the Multnomah Building, their applications will unfortunately be rejected."