9/2/2014

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KATU Investigators

Same-sex marriage decision leaves Oregon in an ironic spot

Same-sex marriage decision leaves Oregon in an ironic spot

PORTLAND, Ore. – Based on a new opinion from Oregon’s Department of Justice, a same-sex couple's marriage outside of Oregon is now being recognized in Oregon.

The move comes after a same-sex couple filed a lawsuit in Eugene on Tuesday, asking a federal judge to overturn Oregon's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. It means that state agencies will begin recognizing same-sex marriages made out of state.

It also means that the state of Oregon is in the ironic position of giving same-sex marriages the same legal standing as any other marriage in Oregon while same-sex couples are still banned from getting married inside the state.

"The state of Oregon has typically recognized legal, out-of-state marriages," said Department of Administrative Services spokesman Matt Shelby.

Because of that history, plus the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Oregon could have been in legal trouble if it did not honor marriages legal in other states.

"Whether that's a common-law marriage, whether that's a same-sex marriage, whether that's a more traditional man and woman marriage, the state of Oregon, state agencies, are going to treat you as a married couple," he said.

Despite that, same-sex couple Ben West and Paul Rummell, who live in North Portland, don't plan to run out of state just to get a marriage license recognized in Oregon. They were both born in Oregon and they'll wait to get married in the state.

"Our love for each other is real here," said Rummell. "Why do we have to go somewhere else for it to be more real?"

Each wears a ring from their commitment ceremony on a hill overlooking Tillamook three years ago.

"There are some variations within our states but equality doesn't stop at the Columbia River," West said, referring to the state of Washington's legalization of gay marriage by the voters there last November.

KATU reached out to one of the groups that backed Oregon's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, the Oregon Family Council, to get its reaction to the state's decision. It didn't return a call.

The state's decision goes into effect immediately.

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