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Oregon AG says she will not defend state’s gay marriage ban in court

Thursday, February 20, 2014
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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Thursday that she will not defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying it “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.”

Ellen Rosenblum

Ellen Rosenblum

Rosenblum’s decision was contained in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, where two legal challenges to the state’s 2004 voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage are pending, reported The Oregonian.

On January 22, 2014, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane consolidated the two lawsuits – one filed in October 2013, and the other in December 2013 – and scheduled oral arguments for April 23, 2014.

Rosenblum’s action means that plaintiffs in both suits — who include four same-sex couples — and the main defendant in the case oppose the ban as unconstitutional.

Last year, Rosenblum signed on to U.S. Supreme Court briefs arguing it was unconstitutional to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Attorneys general in five other states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Nevada — have also declined to defend same-sex marriage bans against lawsuits filed by gay couples, while a sixth, in New Mexico, challenged longstanding legal interpretations that said such unions were impermissible there. The AGs are all Democrats.

Attorneys involved in the Oregon case have previously said the judge could issue a ruling as early as late spring or summer.

In addition to the legal challenge, the advocacy group Oregon United For Marriage is working to put an initiative on the ballot in November 2014 that would replace the state’s constitutional ban with language granting all persons the right to marry without respect to gender.

The group said in December it had already collected the minimum of 116,284 required signatures to qualify for the ballot, but that it was continuing to collect more.

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