Sanity In Oregon
The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to gay couples a year ago by Portland's Multnomah County, saying a county cannot go against state matrimonial law.
"Oregon law currently places the regulation of marriage exclusively within the province of the state's legislative power," the high court said in its unanimous ruling.
The court said state law bans gay marriage. It also noted that Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment last November that even more explicitly prohibits the practice.
Kevin Neely, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said the court left the big issue — civil unions for gay couples — for another day. "I suspect the issue will be resolved by either legislation or by additional litigation," he said.
Legislators had been waiting for the court's ruling for guidance. On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he will push for a law allowing gay couples to form civil unions that would give them many of the rights and privileges of marriage.
The governor and legislature will consider civil union legislation. Whether that is the appropriate course of action is, of course, subject to debate, given the solid rejection of homosexual marriage by Oregon voters in November. It strikes me that they should tread very slowly in that area, because the overwhelming majority of Oregonians expressed a position that seems to oppose granting legal status to homosexual relationships. Given the difficultrts have imposed an unwelcome solution on a sharply divided public, I think the Oregon Supreme Court acted wisely, and I hope the legislature and governor act in a manner which respects the policy preferences of the people of the state -- who are, ultimately, the sovereign power to which they must defer.