BY JONATHAN J. COOPER AND NIGEL DUARA
PORTLAND, Ore. -- On March 12, 2004, the state of Oregon had a problem. Its most populous county was handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the state was unsure whether those actions were on solid legal footing.
Ted Kulongoski, then the governor, asked his attorney general if state agencies should treat same-sex marriages as legal, until the state Supreme Court makes a decision,
"Existing Oregon statutes limit the grant of marriage licenses to one man and one woman," then-Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers wrote.
That November, 57 percent of Oregon voters agreed to a gay marriage ban. Then the Supreme Court voided the marriage licenses already issued. And federal law still banned the recognition of same-sex couples.
What a difference a decade makes.
Faced with an evolving political landscape, the state of Oregon changed course on Thursday when Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum declared that the state would not defend the gay marriage ban in a federal suit.
"State Defendants will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation," Rosenblum said in the documents filed in federal court Thursday. "Rather, they will take the position ... that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review."