Oregon will no longer defend a ban on gay marriage in the state, which was sued by four same-sex couples who argue the prohibition violates equality guarantees enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the state's top law enforcement official said on Thursday.
The decision by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum makes Oregon the third state in the past month to cease defense in federal court of gay marriage bans, as activists fight for legalization across the United States. The other states were Nevada and Virginia.
"The law in this area is developing, and it is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples," Rosenblum, a Democrat, said in announcing the decision.
But the move will not result in the immediate legalization of gay marriage in the Democratic-dominated state, where a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution banned same-sex nuptials.