I live in Portland which is in Multnomah County in which the county commissioners consulted their lawyers and decided that not issuing same-sex marriage licenses unconstitutional and there's nothing in Oregon law that would seem to prohibit it (though you'd better bet people are looking). Marriage in Oregon is defined thus:
106.010 Marriage as civil contract; age of parties. Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable, and solemnized in accordance with ORS 106.150. [Amended by 1965 c.422 §1; 1975 c.583 §1]
So the county commissioners simply told the clerks to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Yay! No new law or referrendum necessary, it was already on the books and the lawyers told them their current policy was likely unconstitutional. Purely an administrative move. Some folks are saying that since the law was written in the 19th century they never would have thought to specify that its *one* man and *one* woman, but these are probably the same folks that argue the literal interpretation of the 2nd ammendment. Let the legal wrangling begin. Meanwhile, they're handing out licenses.
I found out today that this is happening about a mile away, so I spent the afternoon cheering on people going into and coming out of the licensing office and to counter the dour and inevitable group of Christian Nuts hanging around outside.
Apparently yesterday was when all the shouting happened. Today was pretty much like a party. The four or five Christians quietly held their signs touting various Biblical Peril and Leviticus quotes and the four of five supporters with signs cheered and waved and handed out flowers. The officers from the Sheriff's dept. were happy to have a cushy job walking around in the sun. Everyone else was either getting a license, there with a couple getting a license or helping people get married. The officer I spoke to said there were about 450 licenses issued yesterday and about half as many today. The line when I was there was about half a block.
And then there were the Ministers from the Universal Life Church who showed up in clergical garb to marry people right then and there as they came out of the county offices. Yes, that's the same Universal Life Church that advertises in the back of Rolling Stone. Its not a joke, they're real Ministers with the legal power to perform marriage. There was even a guy on hand giving away free wedding photos. God I love this town. Curtis Poe is a minister and showed up along with a few others to hold the ceremonies. The best part being when Curtis has to ask "which one of you would like to be the groom?" because that's what it says on the paperwork. There's a spot for the bride's name and the groom's name.
The folks I talked to who were getting married and licenses largely had this to say: Its about time! Seems lots of people had been living together for years in legal limbo and this is like a dream come true. Lots of senior citizens came for licenses. Yep, little old ladies that have been together for decades finally allowed to get married. I hope someone's keeping track of this information, it would be a nice stat to throw in the face of the "gays are monogamous" crowd.
The folks protesting were disappointingly unimaginative. The usual signs with quotes from Leviticus and stuff about Sodom and Gamorrah. One fellow hung around until the very end (doors closed at 5pm, the Ministers kept marrying people outside until about 6) and I talked to him. He was tragicly sincere about saving gays from eternal damnation and apologetic for those people that were doing the yelling and cursing yesterday. He didn't seem to have any hatred, he really thought they were making a huge mistake and just wasn't aware of the Biblical Consequences. I shook his hand, told him I was impressed he stuck it out and told him I'd see him tommorrow.
Some folks showed up with their own interpretations of the Bible. "God Hates Shrimp! Leviticus 11:10" "Thou shalt not wear clothing made of two materials! Leviticus 19:19" "Those who do work on Sunday will be put to death! Exodus 31:15". Its always fun pointing out to Bible Thumpers that they're being hypocrites if nothing else for their amusing explainations as to why they're not.
The only interesting protester I saw had a sign out: "Straight, White, Conservative and Married. Don't I get a say?" A weird message unless you know something about the politics that went on behind this. Apparently what happened is four of the five the county commissioners discussed this and didn't tell the fifth! And the fifth is the only guy on the council representing the easternmost (and thus most conservative) district. One the one hand, that's not cool to do things in secret. On the other hand, that's politics. And awww, its a woman's club and not a men's club this one time. I really can't feel that bad about it.
Paradoxicly to all the cheering and happy honking of horns from the folks driving by on their way home from work and the lackluster turnout of protesters, it seems the polls are overwhelmingly *against* this. Multnomah County is skitzo. Portland is very liberal. The surrounding area outside the city is most definately not. So issues like this really split between urban and rural. Living in Portland, you only see one side.
Anyhow, the marriages go on!