On Friday, December 28—less than a week before same-sex couples will be allowed to form domestic partnerships in Oregon—attorneys for anti-gay activists who tried to send the new law to the ballot will be in federal court, asking a judge for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the new law from taking effect.
A spokesperson for Basic Rights Oregon says "it's unlikely" that the judge will put domestic partnerships on hold. If that's the case, then same-sex couples can head to the Multnomah County Building in SE Portland as planned on January 2, plunk down $60, get a document notarized, and start enjoying the same rights and responsibilities that Oregon grants to married couples.
But if Restore America's David Crowe has his way, the federal judge will delay domestic partnerships, giving his group—along with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund—a chance to plead their case, originally filed on December 3. The anti-gay activists attempted to refer the domestic partnership law, passed by the legislature in April, to the November 2008 ballot. They turned in 62,000 signatures in late September, but the secretary of state determined that only 55,063 were valid—just 116 short of the 55,179 required to make the ballot. Crowe and his cohorts argue that some signatures were tossed out erroneously, and if five were reinstated, the issue would go to the ballot (thanks to the statistical equations used to tally valid signatures, each signature tossed out takes a small pile of signatures with it).
According to Crowe, who sent out an email to supporters on December 19, the motion asking for a restraining order and injunction says "'the plaintiffs in this matter currently number twenty-eight (28) and additional plaintiffs will likely be added.'" He added that if domestic partnerships begin on January 2, "'substantial and irreparable harm will occur upon the plaintiffs.'"
Before domestic partnerships begin, the anti-gay activists want a chance to make the case that the signatures should be reinstated, and the issue placed on the ballot—a move that would put domestic partnerships on hold, pending a vote.
Karynn Fish, spokesperson for Basic Rights Oregon—which is not a party to the lawsuit, but has retained counsel—says "there's greater harm on our side" if domestic partnerships are delayed
Check blogtown.portlandmercury.com on December 28 for results from the hearing.