A judge's order to register marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Oregon has been temporarily halted, just days before a pending deadline for the state to begin processing such licenses. Lawyers for the state have argued that none of 3,022 licenses issued to couples in Multnomah County in March and April should be registered while a lawsuit over same-sex marriage is on appeal. But lawyers for the gay and lesbian couples who sued the state over the right to marry plan to appeal the temporary halt, which was granted Wednesday by the Oregon court of appeals.
This week's ruling comes after an April decision by Multnomah County circuit judge Frank L. Bearden, who found that Oregon's existing marriage laws violated the state constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples. Bearden ordered the state to process the thousands of licenses already issued. But he also said Multnomah County had to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples pending action by the legislature or by state courts. Multnomah County officials in March began issuing marriage licenses to
same-sex couples after the county attorney concluded that Oregon's marriage laws violated the state constitution. Several lawsuits seeking to block the county's action failed. But by an unusual mutual agreement, gay rights advocates sued the state over the marriage laws, and opponents of same-sex marriage joined the suit as defendants.