Wednesday, March 03, 2004

And The WildFire Begins...

(03-03) 10:40 PST PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) --
Gay and lesbian couples started tying the knot in Portland on Wednesday after the county issued same-sex marriage licenses, joining the rapidly spreading national movement from San Francisco to upstate New York.

About 50 people lined up for a sudden chance to wed after a Multnomah County commissioner said she would begin issuing the licenses to same-sex couples.

An ebullient Mary Li held up the very first certificate -- showing her and her partner's name under the Oregon seal.

"I can't describe how great it feels," Li said. She and her partner Rebecca Kennedy were also the first to be married, by a county judge.

Gay bar owners handed out free glasses of champagne and many couples carried bouquets of roses.

Meanwhile, New York's attorney general joined the national debate, saying current law prohibits same-sex weddings but that he would leave it to the courts to decide if the law is constitutional.

"I personally would like to see the law changed, but must respect the law as it now stands," Spitzer said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

Both sides of the polarizing issue have been waiting for Spitzer's opinion since last Friday when the mayor of New Paltz, a small college town 75 miles north of Manhattan, married 25 same-sex couples without licenses. Village Mayor Jason West now faces 19 criminal counts and could face jail time.

On Wednesday, Nyack, N.Y. Mayor John Shields said he would also start marrying gay couples and planned to seek a license himself to marry his same-sex partner. (GO BOY!)

However, Spitzer said Wednesday that New York's law contains references to "bride and groom" and "husband and wife" and does not authorize same-sex marriage.

Spitzer last week refused a request from the state health department for an injunction stopping the gay weddings. New York Gov. George Pataki has said that performing gay marriages is illegal, and affirmed that position on Wednesday.

"Marriage under New York State law is and has been for over 200 years between a man and a woman. And we have to uphold that law," he said.

Shields said he would go ahead with his plan despite Spitzer's opinion.

"What do you do when you're faced with injustice?" he said. "What did the women do in the suffrage movement? They marched. They were arrested. They did what they had to do to get their rights."


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