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Advocates In Oregon Working For Gay Marriage On Two Fronts

State officials in Utah say they’ll ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a federal judge’s decision last week that allows same sex couples to marry. Meantime, gay marriage advocates in Oregon are pursuing both a popular vote, and a court decision.

Until October, the main approach in Oregon was to push for a ballot measure that would put gay marriage to a vote next November.

But in October, two Portland attorneys filed suit in federal district court in Eugene alleging that the state’s bar on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. constitution. Last week, the ACLU of Oregon filed a similar suit.

Lewis and Clark law professor Erin Ryan says gay marriage advocates could accomplish their goals by ballot.

“But if there were a federal judicial decision that the constitution requires it, that would provide momentum for judicial determinations in other states where there might not be sufficient support for a ballot initiative,” Ryan said.

Ryan says if a judge were to overturn Oregon’s bar on gay marriage, the state might not appeal. In its answer to the lawsuit filed in October, the state said that “significant and serious questions exist as to the legal defensibility of laws that deny same-sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil marriage in Oregon.”