On Thursday, Oregon's Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, announced that while the state was legally obligated to enforce its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Oregon would not defend legal challenges to the ban. Rosenblum's statement implies Oregan won't counteract lawsuits brought against the state's ban against gay marriage, which could ultimately see the ban overturned. Rosenblum joins a handful of Democratic Attorney Generals in other states who have promised the same thing, opening the door for gay marriage to become legal in more states.
In a legal filing, Rosenblum wrote:
State Defendants will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation. 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.
The statement follows two lawsuits filed by a total of three same-sex couples in Oregon, both of which aim to strike down the constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. The first lawsuit was filed in Oct. 2013 by the attorneys of two Portland women who had been together for 30 years. The other two were filed in Dec. 2013 by ACLU, on behalf of two more couples.
Rosenblum's announcement makes Oregon the sixth state to have an attorney general refuse to defend same-sex marriage bans. The other five states are California, Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. The DOMA ruling in June 2013 has ushered a new era in which citizens and politicians alike are pushing for marriage equality under both legal and moral grounds, and it's about time.
In the filing, Rosenblum continued:
State defendants admit that performing same-sex marriages in Oregon would have no adverse effect on existing marriages, and that sexual orientation does not determine an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and enduring relationship.
It's a little surprising Oregon hasn't moved towards marriage equality sooner, considering it's known to be one of the most liberal states. It's more left-leaning than most of America on issues of abortion and minimum wage, for example, and it was Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the original Employee Non-Discrimination Act.
Still, we're hopeful. The lawsuits in Oregon could take a few months, but sooner or later, marriage equality may arrive in the Beaver State.