Same-sex couples react to Oregon attorney general's decision - KPTV - FOX 12

Same-sex couples react to Oregon attorney general's decision

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Same-sex marriage supporters said Thursday they think they have enough signatures to qualify an initiative for this November's ballot in an effort to overturn Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage. The signatures are due in early July.

But the signatures may not be necessary if a federal judge rules in their favor later this year.

Oregon's attorney general announced Thursday she will not defend the state's ban on gay marriage, arguing it cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge.

Ellen Rosenblum's decision comes less than a month after a federal judge decided to consolidate two lawsuits alleging Oregon's ban violates the U.S. Constitution.

Portland attorneys filed the first lawsuit in October, on behalf of two women who have been in a relationship for more than 30 years. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit two months later on behalf of two same-sex couples.

Robin Castro and John Halseth hope to soon see same-sex marriage legalized in Oregon. 

They met in 1987.

They were friends for nine years before they became partners.

When Multnomah County briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, Castro proposed to Halseth by drawing a picture on a piece of paper, he said. He then took a picture and sent it to Halseth. 

The two quickly got married.

But when Oregon voters passed Measure 36, which amended the state's constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman, their marriage became invalid.

"To have it taken away, it just invalidated in people's mind our relationship," Castro said.

Since then, the two have joined the fight to make same-sex marriage legal in Oregon for good.

They've gathered signatures for a proposed ballot initiative.

They've had difficult conversations with opponents about the issue.

Rosenblum's announcement Thursday makes them more hopeful than ever that same-sex marriage will soon be legal in Oregon.

"Very exciting news," Castro said. "We're just... we're going to be cautiously optimistic. But we're very optimistic."

Tung Yim, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, said it's unlikely that marriage licenses could be issued to same-sex couples this spring in Oregon. But it's still possible, he said.

If same-sex marriage becomes legal in Oregon through an initiative or the courts, it will likely end up in a legal limbo for some time, Yim said.

For now, same-sex marriage supporters plan to hold on to the 160,000 signatures volunteers have gathered for a possible initiative until there's a decision on the lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

"We're certain that one of the two will happen and that either way... before this year is up... the two of us will be able to not just marry in the religious way but married in terms of the state of Oregon," said Rich Weissman, who hopes to legally marry his partner J.D. Horn. The couple held a religious ceremony about three years ago.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, Castro and Halseth didn't think they could get married again before next January.

Now, they might speed up their planning, they said.

"Our home is here. Our family are Oregonians, and we want to get married in our state," said Halseth.

The Oregon Family Council released a statement Thursday about Rosenblum's decision.

"Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has ignored her duty to defend the Oregon Constitution and the will of the majority of Oregonians that approved Measure 26 in 2004. Ellen Rosenblum was not elected to pick and choose what laws she would defend based on her own political ideologies. Oregonians expect their Attorney General to defend the laws of the state duly enacted by the people regardless of their personal beliefs," the statement read.

"Out of a respect for the rule of law the Governor or the Attorney General needs to appoint a special defender with standing before the court to represent natural marriage on behalf of the state. It is an outright attack on democracy and the legitimacy of the judicial system for a duly enacted Constitutional Amendment by the people to have no defense in federal court," said Jack Louman, Executive Director of Oregon Family Council. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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