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Oregon AG: We Will Enforce But Not Defend Gay Marriage Ban

Oregon will enforce — but not defend — the state’s same-sex marriage ban, the attorney general said Thursday, noting that the prohibition could not “withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.”

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum made the remarks in response to litigation seeking the right for gays and lesbians to wed in Oregon. Attorneys general in Virginia, Nevada and Pennsylvania have taken the same stance against their state bans in the last year.

Two Oregon couples filed the lawsuit last December challenging the state’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, one of dozens of lawsuits challenging such bans across the country since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay rights last summer.

The state “will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation,” Rosenblum wrote in a court filing in response to the litigation. Rather, the position the state will take is “that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.”

In the meantime, the state is “legally obligated to enforce the Oregon Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage.”

A call placed seeking comment to the ACLU, one of the groups representing the couples who brought the lawsuit, was not immediately returned. Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said Rosenblum was "shamefully abandoning her constitutional duty to defend the marriage amendment." A campaign is underway asking voters to replace that ban with the right for gay couples to marry in November.

Seventeen states, plus the District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriage, while 33 states prohibit it. Federal judges in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia have overturned the bans in recent months but stayed the decisions pending further court appeals.

— Miranda Leitsinger