Oregon will not defend a ban on gay marriage in the state, which is facing a lawsuit brought by four same-sex couples who say the prohibition violates equal protections in the U.S. Constitution, the state attorney general said on Thursday.
A 2004 voter-approved amendment to Oregon's constitution banned gay marriage in the state, although it allows domestic partnerships.
"The law in this area is developing, and it is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said.
Some 17 U.S. states allow gay marriage in a trend that has gained momentum since the Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex couples nationwide are eligible for federal benefits. The court struck down a key part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Since mid-December, gay rights activists have won a series of court battles in New Mexico, Utah and Virginia, where prohibitions on same-sex marriage were ruled unconstitutional by federal judges. The Utah and Virginia decisions have been stayed pending appeal.
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