Oregon AG Myers makes it 4-4
The Attorney General apparently kept bugging Goobernor Kulongoski enough so that guv came back early, to hear what Hardy Myers had to say about state-sanctioned same-sex marriage.
Here's the opinion. (So far the providing agencies have had very quickly timed postings for the original source documents. It's been helpful).
The basic conclusion is a crumb to opponents, and a big lift to supporters, IMO. Here's the money quote:
(1) Current Oregon laws prohibit county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples;
(2) under current law, the legal status of being "married" carries with it legal rights, benefits and obligations; and
(3) the Oregon Supreme Court likely would conclude that withholding from same-sex couples the legal rights benefits and obligations that--under current law--are automatically granted to married couples of the opposite sex likely violates Article I, section 20 of the Oregon Consitution; but
(4) because of the uncertainties about the Article I, Section 20 analysis that the Oregon Supreme Court would bring to bear on the question, it would be unwise to change current state practices until, and unless, a decision by the Supreme Court makes clear, what, if any changes are required.
In a nutshell, it's against the law now, but the law's wrong.
I've seen more than one outlet report this tension as "may" be unconstitutional, which from my emphasis in the opinion is clearly a weakly correlated descriptive. "Likely would conclude" for a lawyer isn't definite, but it ain't "may," either. Unfortunately, Kulongoski himself makes this incorrect distinction during his announcement of the ruling, which seems odd (and frankly excuses outlets who used his announcement as their source). There's nothing "may" about Myers' opinion of the constitutionality--putting him in the same specific mind as all the other lawyers who've looked at it so far.
Both Myers and Teddy the K are playing it politically safe here. Which is fine; the path they've laid out for resolution is rational. But it seems kind of strange to admit as the state's lawyer that rights are being unfairly denied, and then to say, "But even though I'm 90% sure, we probably should keep denying those rights until that other 10% comes in." However, it's very possible that everyone could use a bit of a process breather for the time being.
I could find no major bibles that offered the story on its own merits; they were all folded into California stories, as part of the "elsewhere:" gay marriage roundup. That's a shame; this is a broadly predictive ruling that has the benefit of being right in line with everyone else's: Oregon's Constitution prohibits curtailing marriage rights by sexual orientation. Furthermore, this nugget from AP:
Kulongoski, at a news conference, said he would oppose any move by the Legislature to consider sending a measure to the voters to essentially ban gay marriage. Some lawmakers have expressed interest in taking up the topic when the Legislature conducts a June special session on tax reform.
"I will not support putting discrimination into the state constitution or the federal constitution," the governor said. "That is not who we are as a people."
These two items in combination--the Attorney General concluding that gay marriages must be eventually granted, and the Governor declining to support an amendment push--do two things. First, they make the legislature the only truly unknown piece of the puzzle, although a state DOMA failed in 1997. Secondly, they place Oregon once again in the forefront for fully recognized, undisputed same-sex marriages. And why not.
Finally, a great photo picked up by AP. Would you tell THEM they couldn't get married?