Oregon Attorney General Refuses to Defend State's Gay Marriage Ban

The Oregon Attorney General has refused to defend the state's constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman.

In a federal brief submitted Thursday, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum expressed her refusal to defend the amendment, which was passed by Oregon voters in 2004.

"Because we cannot identify a valid reason for the state to prevent the couples who have filed these lawsuits from marrying in Oregon, we find ourselves unable to stand before [U.S. District Court] Judge [Michael] McShane to defend the state's prohibition against marriages between two men or two women," stated Rosenblum.

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"The equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to be treated equally by their government, unless there is a good reason for unequal treatment."

In November 2004, voters in Oregon passed a ballot initiative known as Oregon Marriage Measure 36, which added a marriage definition to the state constitution.

"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," read Measure 36, which passed with 56.63 percent of the vote.

Last year, four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the marriage amendment as part of the wave of lawsuits against various state marriage amendments across the United States.

As of February, Rosenblum is one of six attorneys general since 2012 who have refused to defend their state's marriage amendment in court.

She joins Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Mark Herring of Virginia, Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania, Kamala D. Harris of California, and Lisa Madigan of Illinois.

Critics of these attorneys general have argued that they are not performing their sworn duties to defend their states' constitutions in court.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, released a statement Thursday denouncing Rosenblum's decision.

"Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is shamefully abandoning her constitutional duty to defend the marriage amendment overwhelmingly enacted by the people of Oregon. She swore an oath of office that she would enforce all the laws, not just those she personally agrees with," said Brown.

"Further, Ms. Rosenblum is dead-wrong in her conclusion that the amendment cannot be supported by rational legal arguments. Just last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that regulating marriage is the purview of the states, not the federal government."

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia legally recognize same-sex marriages. Utah and Virginia are currently appealing court decisions that declared their bans unconstitutional.

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