PORTLAND, Ore. While the Multnomah County commissioner handed out nearly 800 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, religious and political leaders began rallying support for a state amendment that would block such marriages, Friday, March 5, 2004.
The newly formed group called the Defense of Marriage Coalition announced plans to file a court injunction today against Multnomah County on behalf on the rest of Oregon who does not believe such marriage licenses should be given to homosexual couples.
"I have a hard time believing that this will be a decision that will be endorsed by a majority of Oregonians, or even a majority of county residents," said Kelly Clark, attorney for the Defense of Marriage Coalition. "Just like Seattle is not Washington state, Portland doesn't represent the political perspective of the rest of the state."
Unlike California, New York and New Mexico where the battle over same-sex marriage first erupted, Oregon is one of the 12 states without a clear amendment to protect marriage as a union between man and woman only.
Prior to handing out the licenses, the governor of Portland, which is located within Multnomah County, requested a legal opinion from Oregon's attorney general.
The county interpreted the State law that reads, Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable, as meaning homosexual unions is legal.
"We asked our (county) attorney if our current practice was still legal. Based on her opinion, we would be violating the Oregon constitution if we were to continue to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses," county commissioner Serena Cruz told a news conference.
Clark argued, however, that the Mulnomah Board County Commissioners violated a separate law: the states open-meeting laws which prohibit any form of closed door deliberations.
The commissioners elitist revolution and failure to solicit public comment has helped galvanize opposition, said Clark.
"It probably is a political awakening for people like myself who were just as happy to leave this thing alone," Clark said. "If there is a sleeping giant in the form of an ordinary Oregonian, this may have just woken the giant."
Similar comments were heard from another group of protestors who began collecting signatures to a petition for state and county laws securing the traditional definition of marriage. The petition, which began weeks prior to Portlands issuance of licenses, needs 100,000 signatures by July to protect marriage within the county, and 75,600 signatures to take the petition to the state.
I am very optimistic that we will get the necessary signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, said one of the chief petitioners, Kelly Boggs of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Oregon. Even though we do not have the petition approved yet, we have been receiving strong support
According to Boggs, the Multonomah Countys decision to hand out marriage licenses to the scurrying homosexuals across the state will in fact help the petition effort.
The total disregard of the peoples will in this situation will cause a significant number of people, who were perhaps undecided on the issue, to support the petition, he said. I think it has already kindled a sense of urgency for all of us working on the petition. So, I almost want to send thank-you notes to the Multnomah Country commissioners for all the help they have given us by issuing same-sex marriage licenses, said Boggs.
Boggs felt similarly about what was happening in California, New York and New Mexico: the illegal issuance of marriage licenses to homosexuals may awaken the throng of traditionalists who will react against such abhorrent violations.
Even some pro-gay activists believe the actions of San Francisco are harming the gay movement. The openly gay congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, told Washington Post on Feb. 27 that those illegal marriages are stirring more political trouble, and giving conservatives a greater motive to protect marriage.
One of the reasons I am in disagreement with San Franciscos efforts is that it plays into Bush's effort to play up the issue while not legally accomplishing any marriages, he said. And if a large number of other cities emulated San Francisco that would exacerbate things.
Since disobeying the law helps President Bushs push for a constitutional amendment, Frank said.
To the extent that people from all over the country are going to San Francisco and then returning to their home states saying they are now legally married, that generates political support in other states for the constitutional amendment with no gain because they will not be considered legally married in those states.