Basic Rights Oregon and ACLU Congratulate First Same-Sex Couples Married in Oregon

March 3, 2004

BRO & ACLU lead effort for same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses in Multnomah County

PORTLAND, OR - Today, same-sex couples were married in Portland by former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts following a decision by the Multnomah County Commissioners to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Basic Rights Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union, which are advising the married couples, applauds the Commissioners for recognizing that the Oregon Constitution prevents them from discriminating against same-sex couples in marriage.  

""Married couples in Oregon receive more than 1,000 federal rights and more than 500 state rights by entering into a civil agreement called marriage,"" explained Roey Thorpe, Basic Rights Oregon executive director. ""Marriage is about protecting and recognizing families - all families. Gay and lesbian couples and their children deserve the same support and benefits that any other family in the state receives as a result of marriage. Just a few of these benefits include parenting rights, marriage-related tax breaks, the right to benefits paid to the spouses of police and firefighters, hospital visitation, inheritance and burial rights when a partner dies, and spousal privilege court testimony.""  

ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque noted that the Oregon Bill of Rights requires state and local governments to provide equal rights and privileges to all Oregonians.

""Oregon appellate courts have ruled that discrimination against gay and lesbian couples by state and local governments is unconstitutional in Oregon,"" Fidanque said.  ""Marriage is a commitment between two people who choose to share their lives together through good times and bad.  We applaud Multnomah County for recognizing that same-sex couples should not be denied the same rights and responsibilities that other married couples have under state law."" 

Oregon is one of 12 states that does not have a law denying marriage rights to same-sex couples. These laws are most often referred to as Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMA).  

Although these laws vary from state to state, they generally prohibit marriages between same-sex partners and in some cases domestic partnerships or civil unions as well. 

Profiles of the First Two Couples Married in Portland:

The first two couples to marry in Portland, Oregon today were Mary Li and Rebecca Kennedy, and Stephen Knox and Eric Warshaw. 

Mary, 40, and Rebecca, 42, have been together for 4 years. They have one daughter, Ava, who is 9 months old. Mary works for the Multnomah County Office of School and Community Partnerships. Rebecca is a stay-at-home mom.

Mary's father was born in China, and her mother in the U.S. They married in Pennsylvania in 1962, five years before the Supreme Court struck down remaining U.S. laws against interracial marriage. "Until today, I couldn't marry a woman," Mary says. "In another time not so long ago in America, I would not have been allowed to marry a white man. This is a civil rights issue, just as that was."

Rebecca's parents have been married for more than 50 years and they are very religious Catholics. "My parents struggle with it at times," Rebecca says. "But mom understands the difference between a religious wedding in a Catholic Church and civil marriage at City Hall. They can both exist."

Mary's parents are supportive. Her father "once asked me when was I going to bring home a nice Chinese girl. When I moved in with Rebecca, he asked me if Oregon had domestic partnership. And when Ava was born, he hosted a traditional Chinese one month Red Egg naming party."

Stephen and Eric have been together 10 years and have three adopted children: Adam, who is five, and Isaac and Tilly, who are both three. They both work at St. Vincent's hospital, Stephen as an anesthesiologist and Eric as a gynecologist. "This has been overwhelming, and better than we ever imagined," said Eric. "We never thought we'd be able to make this leap." The kids were there when they got married. Eric said they were really excited about it. 

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