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Matt Dunning

Oregon to drop defense of ban on same-sex marriage

February 21, 2014 - 11:35am

John Kitzhaber Governor of Oregon

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.


Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Thursday announced that her office will no longer defend the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the law.

In a brief filed Thursday on behalf of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and state registrar Jennifer Woodward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Eugene, Ms. Rosenblum said that while existing domestic partnership laws provide gay and lesbian couples many of the same legal rights and benefits afforded to married opposite-sex couples, the voter-approved amendment to the Oregon Constitution prohibiting state recognition of same-sex marriages nonetheless violates guarantees of equal protection and due process under federal law.

Ms. Rosenblum also said in her brief that permitting same-sex marriage in Oregon would not have any adverse effect on existing marriages, and that an individual's sexual orientation has no bearing on their capacity to establish a loving relationship with another person.

“It is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way that it honors the commitments made by opposite-sex couples,” Ms. Rosenblum said in a statement released Thursday. “Marriage is the way that loving couples become family to each other and to their extended families, and there is no good reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage in Oregon, or from having their marriages recognized here.”

Prior to Thursday's announcement, Ms. Rosenblum's office had been the lead defense counsel in a pair of federal lawsuits — which have since been consolidated into a single case — filed against the state in December 2013. The plaintiffs are four same-sex couples who separately have been denied marriage licenses, as well as certain rights under state laws regarding adoption, estate planning and spousal eligibility for medical and retirement benefits.

In her brief, Ms. Rosenblum said the state now intends to argue in court that the 2004 ban “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.”

Ms. Rosenblum is the third attorney general since the beginning of 2014 to abandon legal advocacy for a state-level ban on same-sex marriage, following similar announcements by attorneys general in Virginia and Nevada.

A copy of Ms. Rosenblum's brief is available here http://www.doj.state.or.us/releases/pdf/rummell_answer.pdf here.

 



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