Oregon County Joins Gay Marriage Fray

More than 3,600 same-sex marriages were performed in San Francisco over the past month, and hundreds of gay couples were granted wedding licenses last week in Portland, Ore. The marriages are being challenged in court.

Portland, Oregon ¡X Benton County, home to Oregon State University, will become the state's second county to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, County Commissioner Linda Modrell said Tuesday.

Multnomah County, Oregon's most populous, which has issued more than 2,200 licenses to gay couples since March 3. Benton county, about an hour¡¦s drive from Portland, will follow the footstep and licenses will be available in Benton County starting March 24, Modrell said. Benton county is home to Corvallis, known as one of the state's more liberal cities.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, had urged other counties not to follow Multnomah County's lead.

The governor "continues to believe that counties should comply with Oregon statutes," said Mary Ellen Glynn, a spokeswoman for Kulongoski. "It's disruptive to the state to have some counties obeying the law and others not doing that."

The motion was passed by county commissioners by a 2-1 vote.

Modrell said the decision was based partly on a nonbinding opinion issued last week by Oregon Atty. Gen. Hardy Myers, which said a ban on gay marriage probably violated Oregon's Constitution.

The issue, legal observers have said, is likely to wind up being decided by the state's highest court.

Modrell said she was expecting the county to face a lawsuit filed by opponents of gay marriage.

Benton County Dist. Atty. Scott Heiser said he would not prosecute county officials for issuing same-sex licenses.