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Issue of Gay Marriage Headed for Ore. Courts

March 25, 2004|From Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday that could put the issue of gay marriage on the fast track to the state's Supreme Court.

The dispute over same-sex weddings could be heard as early as next month.

Several other legal challenges had been brought by conservative leaders and Christian pastors, but gay-marriage opponents and supporters consolidated their lawsuits because they agreed that the ACLU's suit most directly addressed the constitutional issues arising from gay marriage.

The civil rights group filed the suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of gay couples whose marriages had not been recognized by the state's Vital Statistics office.

Multnomah County commissioners decided to grant the licenses three weeks ago. The county, which encompasses much of metropolitan Portland, is the only part of the country currently issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Kevin Neely, spokesman for Atty. Gen. Hardy Myers, said the state would file its response by April 5, and a decision by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden is expected by the end of that month. That would set the stage for an immediate appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Multnomah County has issued more than 2,400 licenses to gay couples since March 3. San Francisco became the first area to allow same-sex marriages Feb. 12, and handed out more than 4,000 licenses before the California Supreme Court ordered the city to stop March 11.

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