September 22, 2005

Oregon gay marriage activists sue state

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Gay rights activists are suing
the state of Oregon, saying that an amendment that voters added
to the northwestern state's constitution last year banning gay
marriage was unconstitutional.

Oregon was among the first states to issue marriage
licenses for same-sex couples last year, when Portland's
Multnomah County issued the licenses to about 3,000 same sex
couples before a court put a temporary halt to the marriages.

As a lawsuit over the marriages was moving through the
courts, voters passed the amendment to Oregon's constitution.
Eventually Oregon's Supreme Court sided with the anti-gay
marriage forces and nullified the marriages in April 2005.

"Measure 36 is unconstitutional," Roey Thorpe, executive
director of Basic Rights Oregon said of the ballot measure
Oregon voters approved last November.

Arguments are scheduled to be heard in Marion County
Circuit Court in the state capitol of Salem on Monday.

"The measure is just fine," said Christian Roggendorf, an
attorney for the Defense of Marriage Coalition, which is named
in the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the state did not comment, but in a brief
said: "Regardless of the wisdom of the people's choice,
however, plaintiffs' legal challenges to the measure fail."

The plaintiffs are a group of same sex couples - some are
not yet married, some were married in March 2004 and later had
their marriages nullified, while others married in Canada.

Basic Rights Oregon's attorneys are expected to argue that
the initiative was "an improper and invalid exercise of the
initiative power."