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Ruling Allows Legal Status for Partners of Same Sex


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Ruling Allows Legal Status for Partners of Same Sex

Published: February 3, 2008

Source: The New York Times

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A state law allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partners took effect Friday after a federal judge ruled the state’s process of disqualifying petition signatures was consistent enough to be valid.

The state quickly announced that the domestic partnership applications were available online, and jubilant gay-rights activists predicted hundreds of couples would line up on Monday morning at county offices to register.

The law was passed in 2007 and was to take effect when the new year started, but the judge, Michael Mosman of Federal District Court, suspended it to hear testimony about a petition drive that sought to put the law to a vote..

The sponsors of the drive fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed to refer the law to the November 2008 ballot. The petitioners claim that county clerks rejected signatures improperly.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Arizona that advocates for Christian legal issues, said it would appeal the ruling.

Austin Nimocks, a lawyer for the fund, had argued that a signature on a petition should have the same weight as a signature on a ballot, and that elections officials should have made more of an effort to contact voters whose signatures were disqualified.

Testimony at the hearing turned on whether Oregon counties had a “common standard” to evaluate whether a voter’s signature on a petition was valid. Judge Mosman said the state had supplied enough evidence that a common standard existed.

Same-sex couples will be able to file joint state tax returns, inherit property and make medical choices on each other’s behalf, along with a other benefits given to married Oregonians.

Oregon becomes the ninth state to approve spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples, joining California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex couples to marry.

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