Four couples are suing the state in federal court, contending Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Gov. John Kitzhaber are named as defendants in the suit. The attorney general's office usually defends the state in litigation, but Rosenblum said in a statement posted on her official website that "after much careful study and consideration" she decided that the state Department of Justice will not defend the state Constitution's ban on gay marriage.
"The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to be treated equally by their government, unless there is a good reason for unequal treatment," Rosenblum said. "That is, any time the government establishes different sets of rules or laws for different sets of people, there must at least be what the law calls a 'rational basis' for those differences.
"The law in this area is developing and it is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples. Marriage is the way that loving couples become family to each other and to their extended families, and there is no good reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage in Oregon, or from having their marriages recognized here.
"Because we cannot identify a valid reason for the state to prevent the couples who have filed these lawsuits from marrying in Oregon, we find ourselves unable to stand before federal Judge [Michael] McShane to defend the state's prohibition against marriages between two men or two women."