Same-sex couples lined up Monday in front of the Multnomah County Building to register for Oregon's new domestic partnership.
It was the first day gay couples were allowed to register as domestic partners after U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman dismissed on Friday a petition lawsuit. Oregon became the ninth state to approve spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples.
While gay couples exchanged rings and exited the county building with their certificates of registration, Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is planning to appeal Friday's ruling which was described as a "severe blow to the preservation of marriage and the family."
In 2004, Multnomah County – the largest county in Oregon – passed a law authorizing same-sex "marriages." About 3,000 gay couples were granted "marriage" licenses.
Oregon voters later voted in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex "marriages" and the state Supreme Court nullified the licenses.
Since then, homosexual activists have worked to reverse the decision. And in 2007, the Oregon State Legislature enacted a bill creating domestic partnerships and granting same-sex couples the benefits of marriage. The law was to take effect when the new year started.
However, the federal judge, Mosman, had suspended the 2007 law from taking effect in 2008 to hear testimony about a petition drive.
Opponents of the domestic-partnership law argued that it disregarded the will of Oregon voters who passed the amendment banning same-sex "marriage." They started a petition drive that sought to put the law before voters on the November 2008 ballot.
The petitions fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed to place the law on the ballot. However, Alliance Defense Fund said when the signatures were submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State in September, they exceeded the required number by more than 6,000.
The group argued in court that many of the signatures were wrongfully rejected. They also said the officials in charge of validating the signatures ended the process after only 12 days in spite of the fact that a provision in the Oregon Constitution allowed them 30 days to contact signers in an attempt to verify signatures' authenticity.
Mosman rejected the arguments. The Alliance Defense Fund said it plans to appeal the ruling and petitioners plan to start another drive.
"We want to vote — we think that our signatures mean something and it was an arbitrary move by the secretary of state's office," said Carolyn Wendell, who was a chief petitioner in the lawsuit, according to AP.
And referring the issue to voters could mean preserving traditional marriage.
"When the people have been allowed to vote on marriage, they have overwhelming recognized that it is the union of one man and one woman," said a statement by ADF.
In Florida, the Marriage Protection Amendment was officially certified on Friday for the November 2008 ballot with a total of 649,346 petitions certified, exceeding the 611,009 required by law. If the amendment passes, Florida would recognize marriage as "the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife."
Oregon's approval of domestic partnerships for same-sex couples follows similar measures in Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay "marriage."