Officials in Washington and Oregon Face Lawsuits to Block Same-Sex Marriages

Dec 14, 2004

Seattle, WA – Today, a lawsuit was filed by John Aydelott and Randall Lefkovar against Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels seeking to block the mayor’s Executive Order (“Order”), which declares recognition of same-sex “marriage” for city employees. The Plaintiffs are represented by, Brian Fahling, Senior Trial Attorney with the AFA Center for Law & Policy, and Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel.

On March 8, 2004, Mayor Nickels signed an Order purporting to acknowledge the validity of same-sex “marriages” for city employees. Joined by members of the City Council, the City Attorney and a member of Seattle’s Sexual Minorities Commission, Nickels stated that he will also propose an ordinance to the City Council offering same-sex marriage for all Seattle residents. The Order also stated that the Office of Civil Rights was authorized to investigate complaints from city employees regarding any violations of the Order and that the City’s Personnel Department was ordered to devise guidelines in accordance with the Order.

In 1998, the state of Washington passed a Defense of Marriage Act, which expressly states that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that Washington will not recognize any same-sex marriage from any out-of-state or foreign jurisdiction. In Washington, like every other state, marriage is a statewide concern, and thus falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the State. Marriage cannot be altered, amended or modified by a city, county, or any other political subdivision. Since the State has sole jurisdiction over marriage, the actions by Mayor Nickels are illegal. The suit seeks a mandamus to prohibit the mayor from violating clearly established state law. Prior to filing suit, a letter was sent to Washington’s Attorney General seeking a determination as to whether the AG would intervene, and the response was that there would be no intervention. Consequently, state law provides that in the absence of an attorney general intervention, private citizens may bring an enforcement action.

Attorney Fahling stated, “Mayor Nickels will learn just like the mayor of New Paltz, New York – he cannot deliberately disobey the law. The rule of law will prevail ”

Attorney Staver of Liberty Counsel commented, “Last week Judge Vincent Bradley issued a clear message against New Paltz, New York, Mayor Jason West. That message not only applies to Mayor West, but also to Mayor Nickels. Any public official who takes an oath of office must uphold state law, and in the state of Washington, the law could not be any more clear – marriage is between one man and one woman. I am astounded at the deliberate disobedience of public officials who are willing to violate their oath, violate the law, and trample on the will of the people, all so that they can push their radical same-sex agenda. Like in New Paltz, New York, law and order will return to Seattle.”


Lawsuit to Block Multnomah County, Oregon,
From Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Multnomah County, Oregon – Today, Johny Belgarde filed suit in the Oregon Supreme Court against Multnomah County, seeking to bar county officials from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Mr. Belgarde is represented by Brian Fahling, Senior Trial Attorney of the AFA Center for Law and Policy, and Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel.

On March 3, 2004, County Commissioner Diane Linn, Maria Rojo De Steffey, Serena Cruz and Lisa Naito, unilaterally, without legal authority, and without a duly noticed public hearing, agreed that County officials could begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On the same day, Ms. Linn, as Chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners, directed County officials to begin issuing these licenses.

Oregon law states that marriage is the joining “together as husband and wife the persons named in the license.” The common and ordinary meanings of “husband” and “wife” clearly limit marriage to one man and one woman. Oregon law also states that “[n]o county clerk shall issue a license contrary to the provisions” of Oregon law, and any person who does so is guilty of a criminal misdemeanor. Case law in Oregon also states that marriage is a matter of statewide concern, is under the jurisdiction of the state, and may not be altered by local governmental entities, such as Multnomah County.

Last Friday, some individuals filed suit against Multnomah County officials under the open meetings law, since 4 out of the 5 commissioners met privately 2 by 2 to come up with this scheme. A request for a restraining order was denied Monday, and another hearing is scheduled Friday. A successful resolution of that case would require the 5 commissioners to meet in public to do what 4 of them unlawfully did in private. Today’s suit by Mr. Belgarde seeks a writ of mandamus to permanently block Multnomah County from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Attorney Fahling of the AFA Center for Law and Policy stated, “Multnomah County officials are not above the law. Marriage is a matter of statewide policy, a matter for the people and their legislature to decide. County officials have no authority to alter marriage law. Their actions should be seen for what they are – an illegal exercise of power.”

Attorney Staver of Liberty Counsel stated, “Marriage between one man and one woman is fundamental to our society. Local county officials have no right to change millennia of human history by secretly concocting illegal maneuvers to rewrite marriage law and policy. State and local enforcement agencies are ignoring their duties to uphold the law. They should immediately and swiftly put an end to this illegal activity.”

Last Friday, Liberty Counsel obtained an emergency court order blocking Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, New York, from solemnizing same-sex unions. Judge Vincent Bradley stated that Mayor West violated his oath of office by illegally solemnizing same-sex unions.


Preserving Traditional Marriage

So far, Liberty Counsel has filed suit in five states to preserve traditional marriage. We must boldly go anywhere the same-sex marriage battle takes us. "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you." I Chron. 28:20. With your support, and God's blessings, we will continue to restore the culture, one case at a time.