ACLU and Basic Rights Oregon Undeterred After Oregon Supreme Court Delays Ruling on Issue of Fairness for Lesbian and Gay Couples

Affiliate: ACLU of Oregon
April 14, 2005 12:00 am

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Groups Urge Oregon Legislature to Enact Civil Union Bill Endorsed by Governor Kulongoski Yesterday

PORTLAND, OR — The American Civil Liberties Union and Basic Rights Oregon today said they were disappointed but undeterred by the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision to delay ruling on the underlying issue of fairness for same-sex couples in a lawsuit brought by the groups.

“The Court’s decision is not surprising considering the fact that a constitutional amendment was passed that created procedural disputes in the lawsuit,” said Dave Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon. “This is just a speed bump in the road for basic fairness for all families. It may take longer for us to get there, but we will continue to fight in the legislature and courts until all families are provided the protections they deserve.”

The Court’s decision also invalidated the 3,000 marriages by same-sex couples that took place last year in Oregon.

“Today’s decision underscores the urgency for the state legislature to pass the civil union bill that was endorsed by Governor Kulongoski yesterday,” said Roey Thorpe, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. “This morning 3,000 same-sex couples saw their hopes for family protections pulled right out from under them. It’s time for our lawmakers to put politics aside and do right by these and all the other lesbian and gay couples in this state who need to be able to protect their families.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on March 24, 2004, on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon and nine same-sex couples seeking marriage. While the case was working its way through the courts, the Defense of Marriage Coalition, a group opposed to marriage for same-sex couples, sought to prevent additional lesbian and gay couples from marrying by pushing for a constitutional amendment to end the public debate over the issue. Constitutional Amendment 36 passed on November 2, 2004.

In light of the passage of the amendment, the ACLU had argued to the state’s high court that civil unions would be an appropriate remedy in the lawsuit. However in today’s decision, the Court reasoned that, since we had initially asked for marriage, it would be procedurally improper to rule on the issue of civil unions.

“It’s unfortunate that lesbian and gay couples and their children will be denied protections for their relationships while we continue to litigate this issue. We are confident, however, that ultimately the Court will agree that it’s unfair to treat same-sex couples, who make the same kinds of commitments that married couples make, as legal strangers,” said Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

To view the decision and other background materials, please go here: /getequal/caseprofiles.htm.

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