by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Oregon became the 20th state to see its ban on same-sex marriage challenged in court when one Lesbian and one Gay couple filed suit in federal court on October 15.
The couples seek to have Oregon's 2004 Measure 36 overturned. Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson wish to be married in their home state, and Robert Deuhmig and William Griesar, who married in Canada, want the state to recognize their rights as legal spouses.
Measure 36, passed by a vote of 57% to 43%, amended the Oregon state constitution to bar Gay and Lesbian marriages after Multnomah and Benton County officials began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
While Measure 36 was upheld by Oregon state courts, notably by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2009, attorneys for the couples argue that Measure 36 is a federal question because it violates the U.S. Constitution.
'We would like a federal district judge in Oregon to find that there is no rational, legitimate, or compelling governmental interest that would allow Oregon's anti-Gay constitutional amendment to stand,' attorney Lake Perriguey said. 'It will not withstand constitutional scrutiny.'
While the lawsuit is not connected with the repeal campaign launched against Measure 36 by Oregon United for Marriage, the group says it has spoken with the couples' attorneys and supports their goal.
'We share the same goal as the plaintiffs in this case - to make marriage legal for all loving and committed couples in Oregon,' Oregon United spokesperson Amy Ruiz said. 'No one should be denied the freedom to marry the person they love.'
The group is currently gathering signatures to put repeal of the amendment on the ballot next year.
'I believe that securing equal access to marriage in Oregon through a popularity contest or through a federal decision will advance marriage equality nationwide,' Perriguey said.
'There's nothing guaranteeing a vote will come out in our favor, and there's no guarantee that a legal opinion will come out in our favor. But we're very optimistic.'
Plaintiffs Geiger and Nelson said they filed the suit because they thought it might bring a quicker result than waiting for the repeal initiative to come on the ballot.
'We are trying to go this route to see if perhaps we can get it sooner, but either way we're very supportive of any route,' Geiger said.
The couple have been together for more than 31 years, and were among the first in line to obtain marriage licenses during the brief period when Multnomah County was issuing them to Gay couples. They said they have faced discrimination throughout their relationship, which began when they met working at a camp together.
They even avoided having children, they said, because they felt the stigma would have been too great.
Other states where anti-Gay marriage laws are being challenged in court include Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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