Sept 23, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 38

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Gay-rights group to challenge Oregon constitutional amendment
Gay-rights group to challenge Oregon constitutional amendment
Measure 36 banned equal marriage rights for same-sex couples

Basic Rights Oregon heads back to court on Monday, September 26 to ask Oregon courts to find Measure 36, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by Oregon voters on November 2, 2004, unconstitutional. Monday, attorneys will present oral arguments in Marion County Circuit Court, the first hearing in litigation which is expected to last at least two years and be decided ultimately at the Oregon Supreme Court.

"The Oregon Constitution belongs to all Oregonians-including same-sex couples and their families," said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe. "Using the Constitution to treat some Oregonians differently violates every Oregon tradition of fairness and is an insult to the spirit of the Oregon Constitution, which was created to establish justice, maintain order and perpetuate liberty and prevent a majority from deciding or diminishing the basic rights of a minority."

The legal challenge, originally filed on Monday, January 31 in Marion County Court, is based primarily on a two-part argument. The first claim asserts that Measure 36 revises, rather than amends, the Oregon Constitution by violating the fundamental principles of liberty and justice on which the Constitution is based, by changing the allocation of power among the branches of government because it restricts the role of the courts in interpreting the constitution and by imposing a policy on local governments.

Secondly, while Measure 36 contains only one sentence, the addition of this provision to the Oregon Constitution creates multiple changes that should have been proposed as separate amendments. Because these multiple amendments and fundamental changes were all included under the umbrella of Measure 36, the measure violates constitutional provisions which require that voters must approve separate amendments with separate votes.

"This legal challenge is about much more than the issue of same-sex marriage or Measure 36," stated Attorney Mark Johnson of Johnson Renshaw & Lechman-Su PC, one of the attorneys handling the challenge. "It's about defending the Oregon Constitution, maintaining the integrity of the initiative process and guaranteeing basic fairness for all Oregonians."

More than 20 plaintiffs from across the state of Oregon are represented on the case, including same-sex couples married in Multnomah County in 2004; same-sex couples married in Canada prior to the passage of Measure 36; same-sex couples who are not yet married, but want to reserve the right to marry in the future; and clergy who perform or want to perform marriages for same-sex couples according to the tenets of their faith.

The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Beth A. Allen of Lane Powell PC and Mark Johnson of Johnson Renshaw & Lechman-Su PC.

A Basic Rights Oregon press release

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