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Oregon joins 5 states in refusing to defend gay-marriage ban

Oregon’s attorney general said yesterday she won’t defend her state’s ban on same-sex marriage, joining other top law enforcement officials in refusing to fight challenges to similar prohibitions in five other states.

The law “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a court filing in Eugene, Ore. She said the state will continue to enforce the ban unless it’s overturned by a court.

Rosenblum followed fellow Democratic Attorneys General Kamala Harris of California, Mark Herring of Virginia, Lisa Madigan of Illinois, Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada in refusing to defend lawsuits challenging gay-marriage bans.

Litigation over the issue has spiked since a June Supreme Court decision invalidating part of a law that limited federal recognition to heterosexual marriages. Since then, four courts have overturned state bans on same-sex unions. Three of those decisions are on hold pending appeal.

Rosenblum announced her refusal to defend the Oregon ban in an answer to federal lawsuits brought last year against her and Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“State defendants admit that performing same-sex marriages in Oregon would have no adverse effect on existing marriages, and that sexual orientation does not determine an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and enduring relationship,” she wrote in the filing.

Rosenblum last year joined other states that submitted filings to the Supreme Court opposing California’s gay-marriage ban and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“The Attorney General has taken a close look at the facts, and came to the same conclusion that courts around the country and freedom-minded Oregonians have: there is no reasonable or legal justification to exclude committed gay and lesbian couples from marriage,” Mike Marshall, campaign manager for Oregon Untied for Marriage, said in a statement.

Rosenblum said in her own statement that while her office usually defends the state in litigation, “there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples.”

Katharine Von Ter Stegge, who represents the Multnomah County assessor, a defendant in the lawsuits, had no immediate comment on the attorney general’s court filing.

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