Gay Marriage Ends Nationally

PORTLAND — Gay marriage has ended nationally as one of the counties in Oregon decided to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Today, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden ordered Multnomah County to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples but he also said he believes the Oregon constitution "would allow either a civil union or (marriage) privileges to same-sex couples."

Bearden said a Supreme Court ruling is needed to determine whether gay marriage should be allowed in the state. He also said, "public debate and legislative action may be required to carry out the court's mandate."

Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians on March 3 after a legal review determined it was unconstitutional to ban applications from same-sex couples.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that denying marriage licenses to gay couples is discrimination while the Defense of Marriage Coalition argued the state has a right to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, as long as other rights are not affected.

Kevin Neely, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's office, called Bearden's decision "a big step in what will be a bit longer process."

"Our goal from the beginning was to get a ruling from the Supreme Court, but this initial ruling does provide at least some clarity and a framework for moving to that next step," Neely said. "The real key here is to give the Legislature an opportunity to craft a law that the courts will deem constitutionally sound."