Judge Halts Oregon Same-Sex Marriages

April 21, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An Oregon judge has put the brakes on same-sex marriages in one Oregon county, but said those licenses that have already been issued are valid.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden ordered the state’s largest county to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bearden’s ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing nine gay and lesbian couples, joined Multnomah County in a lawsuit against the state challenging Oregon’s marriage law, according to an Associate Press report.

At the same time though, Bearden ordered Oregon to recognize same-sex marriages performed by the county. Thus, the 3,022 licenses issued so far are legally valid, as Bearden became the first judge in the nation to recognize same-sex marriages.

With the ruling, same-sex marriages effectively come to a halt in the United States, since Multnomah County was the only jurisdiction known to allow it. However, effective May 17, Massachusetts is expected to begin approving same-sex marriage license applications following a ruling by its Supreme Judicial Court.

Recognizing this issue is one better suited for the legislative process, Bearden said Multnomah Country should cease issuing same-sex licenses until the state legislature has a chance to fashion a new law. To provide an impetus for legislative action, he gave the state 90 days from the start of its next session to come up with the new law. If that does not happen, Multnomah County can resume issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians, Bearden said.

Oregonlawmakers are scheduled to meet in a special session in June to discuss tax reform and could take up the same-sex marriage issue at that time.