Judge consolidates Oregon same-sex marriage lawsuits

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PORTLAND — Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage might be overturned before voters receive their ballots this fall.

A federal judge in Eugene on Wednesday decided to consolidate two lawsuits alleging Oregon’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Judge Michael McShane, an Obama appointee, set oral arguments for April 23.

Portland attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of two women in a relationship for more than 30 years. Two months later, the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyers from two firms went to court on behalf of a lesbian couple and a gay couple.

Perriguey opposed a motion to combine the lawsuits, concerned it would delay a ruling. The lawyers who filed the December lawsuit supported consolidation, saying the cases present the same legal issues and it wouldn’t significantly prolong the outcome.

As the court case moves forward, the campaign to win marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples announced this week it has collected more than 127,000 petition signatures. Organizers only need to collect 116,284 valid signatures by July 3 to make the November ballot.

In 2004, voters by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent voted to amend the Oregon constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Campaign organizers hope to make Oregon the first state to vote out a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage.