But although opponents are demanding that county commissioners remain aboveboard in their decisions, apparently those same rules and ethics don't apply to them.
Issuance of same-sex marriage licenses has been suspended as the state courts--and, potentially, the state legislature--figure out whether Oregon will allow civil unions or full-fledged marriages for same-sex couples. But not content to allow those traditional legal channels to flesh out the arguments, members of the religious right have pushed forward several efforts to outlaw same-sex marriages and to punish the county commissioners. None of those efforts are necessarily illicit, but they do smack of the very same vigilante legislation that same-sex marriage opponents claimed county commissioners had undertaken.
Last week, John Belgarde, executive director for the Christian Coalition, filed a lawsuit against county commissioners for misusing public funds. His suit claims that the county misapplied public funds when they processed marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Considering the county collected a $60 processing fee per license, the suit is a peculiar claim. Belgarde has also garnered notoriety for spearheading a failed recall effort against Mayor Vera Katz. (Belgarde was also slammed with several election law violations. Since then, he's tried to wiggle out of those fines.)
Also last week, opponents of same-sex marriage began a signature-gathering effort. If successful, voters will decide in November whether to amend the state constitution to ban these marriages.
Over the weekend, they gathered almost 5,000 at a dozen local churches. (Belgarde is also behind this effort.) The Secretary of State explained that using churches to circulate petitions does not violate election law. But concerns have been raised whether this support violates the church's tax-exempt status, which is conditioned on the organization remaining non-partisan. That legal question remains somewhat ambiguous.