New Marriage Laws Facing Court Tests; Gays Fight to Block Amendments

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Legal wrangling over new state constitutional amendments on marriage is already under way in Oregon, Louisiana and Oklahoma, and expected within a few weeks in Georgia.

The most explosive case is likely to be in Oregon, where plaintiffs representing 3,000 same-sex couples are suing to have their "marriages" recognized.

Oral arguments before the Oregon Supreme Court had been scheduled for Nov. 17, but now that voters have passed Oregon's constitutional marriage amendment, the high court has rescheduled arguments for Dec. 15.

Conservative lawyers are expected to ask the high court to dismiss most or all of the same-sex "marriage" lawsuit.

"The fact is that Ballot Measure 36 [the marriage amendment] conclusively establishes that, as a matter of the Oregon Constitution, marriage remains between one man and one woman," said Kelly Clark, a Portland attorney representing the Defense of Marriage Coalition.

However, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon said passage of the marriage amendment doesn't end the debate over same-sex "marriage" in the state.

The new amendment doesn't explicitly forbid same-sex "marriage" or civil unions, said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU state office. "It is way too early" to predict how the high court will react to the new marriage amendment, he added.

Oregon's amendment says that "only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage."

The amendment "does not outlaw civil unions," Mr. Clark said. "I would argue that it absolutely bans same-sex marriage."

State officials last week also said the high court must rule on the legality of the 3,000 "marriage" licenses issued in March to same-sex couples by officials in Multnomah County, which includes Portland.

In April, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden stopped the "marriages," but ordered the state to recognize the ones already issued. …