Shortly after Basic Rights Oregon announced its legal challenge last week to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the lead attorney for the Defense of Marriage Coalition (which put the ban on the ballot last year) replied with a terse press release. However, instead of discussing the merits of the case, the attorney, Kelly Clark, used the space to blast Multnomah County commissioners--and, in the process, propagated several unfounded and untruthful claims, some of which were picked up by media organizations.

Clark started off calling BRO's legal challenge to Measure 36 "simply arrogant" and claimed BRO was trying to thwart the will of Oregon voters. But the most barbed part of his response was aimed at the county commissioners who supported issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They "broke the public trust and broke the law with secret back room meetings" claims Clark's press release.

That claim, that they "broke the law," veers dangerously close to slander, as the commissioners have never actually been charged or convicted of breaking any such laws. Last year, Clark also claimed the commissioners broke the state's "sunshine laws" by meeting "in secret," but that claim has floundered. Further, since the decision to issue the licenses was made by Commissioner Diane Linn as an executive decision, public commission meetings weren't required.

In fact, Commissioner Serena Cruz said there have been multiple attempts to bring the issue before state oversight boards, but they have been rejected as frivolous claims.

In the press release, Clark makes other statements that don't hold up to legal scrutiny, including a claim that BRO "could not force their agenda through the courts" last year. This is a peculiar claim because, in fact, the Li & Kennedy v. The State of Oregon case (a lawsuit for same-sex marriages) is still very much undecided, waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court.

Clark summed up his opposition to the legal challenge with another whopper: "The people, not the courts, ultimately own the Constitution." In case he missed the class in law school, the Constitution isn't owned by anyone; it's the legal framework that establishes our system of government. Only one branch is given the authority to interpret the Constitution, however, and it isn't the initiative process--it's the court system.