Ore. 20th State to File Marriage Equality Lawsuit

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday October 16, 2013

Oregon is the latest state to file a marriage equality lawsuit as two same-sex couples are challenging the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage, asking a judge to overturn the measure, Portland, Ore., newspaper Willamette Week reports.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., by attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton, who represent two same-sex couples. The plaintiffs are seeking to overturn Oregon's 2004 Measure 36, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The suit names Gov. John Kitzhaber and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and a few other officials, as defendants.

"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," Perriguey said. "It will not withstand constitutional scrutiny."

According to Willamette Week, the lawsuit says that one couple, Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, should have the right to marry. The other couple, Robert Deuhmig and William Griesar, were legally married in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, but want their marriage recognized by the state.

As the newspaper reports, there is currently another lawsuit filed by the $12 million campaign Oregon United for Marriage in order to take down the gay marriage ban. The organization's volunteers are collecting signatures to put the initiative on the ballot in 2014.

Geiger, 54, and Nelson, 53, told Willamette Week they have been in a relationship for more than three decades and were one of the first same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license when gay marriage was briefly recognized in Multnomah County back in 2004.

"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 told the newspaper.

Perriguey said Measure 36 is a federal question because it violates the Constitution.

"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 told Willamette Week. "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."

Officials from Oregon United for Marriage echoed Perriguey's sentiments.

"We share the same goal as the plaintiffs in this case, to make marriage legal for all loving and committed couples in Oregon," spokeswoman Amy Ruiz told the newspaper. "No one should be denied the freedom to marry the person they love."

Oregon has banned gay marriage since 2004, however, same-sex couples have been able to enter into domestic-partnerships since 2008 when the Oregon Family Act was enacted.

Oregon is the 20th state to have a marriage lawsuit. According to Freedom to Marry the following states also have lawsuits challenging state laws banning marriage equality:

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.