April 14, 2005

Oregon Supreme Court Upholds Marriage Laws and Dismisses Case in Light of the Recently Passed State Constitutional Amendment

Salem, OR – Today the Oregon Supreme Court in the case of Li v. State of Oregon upheld the state’s marriage laws and invalidated licenses issued to same-sex couples. Liberty Counsel filed amicus briefs in defense of the marriage laws.

The initial challenge to Oregon’s marriage laws occurred when Multnomah County officials issued same-sex marriage licenses last year. Following that action, there was a separate lawsuit directly challenging the marriage laws. The trial court found the marriage laws unconstitutional and directed the state to grant marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The case was appealed directly to the Oregon Supreme Court. In the meantime, Oregon voters adopted Ballot Measure 36, a voter-initiated amendment to the Oregon Constitution. The amendment, which became effective on December 2, 2004, provides: “It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.” Liberty Counsel filed a supplemental brief arguing that the challenge to the marriage laws had been mooted by the amendment. Today the Oregon Supreme Court agreed, reversing the trial court, upholding the marriage laws and voiding about 3,000 same-sex marriage licenses.

The unanimous ruling concluded: “First, since the effective date of Measure 36, marriage in Oregon has been limited under the Oregon Constitution to opposite-sex couples. Second, Oregon statutory law in existence before the effective date of Measure 36 also limited, and continues to limit, the right to obtain marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples. Third, marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Multnomah County before that date were issued without authority and were void at the time that they were issued, and we therefore need not consider the independent effect, if any, of Measure 36 on those marriage licenses.”

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, commented: “The marriage battle in Oregon sets an example for each state to follow. But for the state constitutional amendment passed by the voters in 2004, Oregon’s marriage laws would likely be overturned by the courts. When the people voice their opinion on marriage, they universally choose to preserve marriage between one man and one woman. The fate of marriage should not be placed in the hands of a few judges. The Oregon voters have spoken by amending their state Constitution, and thus the courts are required to listen. Today’s ruling upholding the marriage laws in light of the state constitutional amendment is a tremendous victory for marriage, family and children. Each state should move forward to pass constitutional amendments to preserve marriage. We must also move forward to pass a federal constitutional amendment.”


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