Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, an Oregon county that had been poised to become the state's second to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has now backed off until the courts intervene.
Commissioners in Benton County, home to Oregon State University and the liberal city of Corvallis, decided Monday to stop issuing all marriage licenses until there is a court ruling on whether gay marriage is legal in Oregon. Attorney General Hardy Myers sent Benton County commissioners a letter that the state is "well-positioned to initiate a lawsuit were they to proceed as proposed," said Kevin Neely, Myers's spokesman.
Benton County commissioners then later said they were "respecting the attorney general's request" by postponing the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The county had been set to follow in the footsteps of Multnomah County, the state's most populous, which has issued more than 2,400 licenses to gay and lesbian couples since March 3.
Gay-marriage advocates said they are disappointed. "It's unfortunate that the attorney general put them in a position where they felt they had no choice but to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether," said Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.
A lawsuit intended to test the legality of the issue was to be filed in Multnomah County circuit court by noon Wednesday, said Benton County commissioner Linda Modrell. The case is expected to go to the Oregon supreme court.