April 14, 2005

Oregon Supreme Court Nullifies Gay Marriage Licenses

Damn. Though really there was nothing that could be done; an amendment to the state constitution, allowing only hetero marriages, was passed last fall. As I understand it, though, amendments like this can't be enforced, due to the 16th amendment to the federal constitution; but a *federal* judge has to make that ruling, because state judges have to operate within the bounds of the state constitution. It's very much like a state whose constition only gave full civil rights to men, or white people.
The way things are going, I expect we'll see a circuit court (federal) ruling within the next two years, and a supreme court ruling within ten.

Here's an amusing quote from the wingnut lawyer for the 'Defense of Marriage Coalition':

'Two West Coast liberal states now, both California and Oregon, have both said that local governments don't have authority to take the law into their own hands,'' said Kelly Clark, the attorney for the Defense of Marriage Coalition. ''It certainly sends a signal to the rest of the country.'

Because everyone knows governments don't have the authority to enforce the law!

Question for the pre-lawyers who hang out here: Multnohma County issued marriage licenses to gay couples before the amendment was passed, and the ban was only a law. It sounds like the county executive government determined that the ban was unconstitional and therefore unenforceable, and this ruling says only that they did not have the authority to make that determination. It really has nothing to do with the amendment at all; if, for example, there had been no law on the books at all, the court could not revoke those licenses issued prior to the amendment, right? But then if the ban was unconstitutional before the amendment, wouldn't Multnomah County have the authority to issue those licenses, and they could be reinstated?

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