Lawsuit filed to overturn Oregon's same-sex marriage ban

PORTLAND, Ore. - A federal court may decide whether Oregon overturns its same-sex marriage ban even before voters have a say.

A lawsuit filed in Eugene on Tuesday says the 2004 ban is unconstitutional.

KATU's news partners at Willamette Week broke the story.

The lawsuit names Gov. John Kitzhaber and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

The lawyers who filed the lawsuit told Willamette Week it would be faster and cheaper than trying to get the issue on the ballot.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two gay couples.

Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson have been together for more than 30 years and want to get legally married.

The second couple is Robert Deuhmig and William Griesar. They were already married in Vancouver, B.C. but want it recognized here in Oregon.

Willamette Week reporter Andrea Damewood said there does seem to be a philosophical difference between these couples and their lawyers, and the national campaign hoping to get voters to overturn the ban.

"Then they can say there's a ground swell of national support for this and that can't hurt their chances with federal court cases," Damewood said. "I think (the lawyers who filed the suit believe) there's an idea of maybe civil rights shouldn't be legislated by people, that maybe it's more of a federal court decision, something more definite, something less mercurial than the will of the people."

Oregon United For Marriage started gathering signatures over the summer to put the gay marriage ban on the ballot. They want voters to overturn it in November 2014.

That approach just worked in the state of Washington. And the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a California court's ruling that a ban is unconstitutional.

Ultimately, both groups have the same goal and a third group will likely campaign against same-sex marriage all together.

The attorney general's office told KATU News that it is aware of the lawsuit is still evaluating it.