PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Gay couples in Oregon will be allowed to register as domestic partners, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman lifted a temporary injunction he imposed in late December, just days before the domestic partnership law approved in the 2007 legislative session was due to take effect.
In his ruling, issued from the bench, Mosman rejected arguments made by an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that advocates for Christian legal issues.
The group's lawyers had argued that county elections clerks had improperly disqualified voter signatures collected during a drive to refer the domestic partners law to the November 2008 ballot.
The referendum drive fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed to refer a law passed by the Legislature to the ballot.
Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Austin Nimocks had argued that a signature on a petition should be given the same weight as a signature on a ballot, and that elections officials should have made more of an effort to contact voters whose signatures were disqualified.
But Mosman, who was appointed to the bench in 2003 by President Bush, sided with lawyers for the state and Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest gay rights group.
"This is a call for an election, not a substitution for an election," Mosman said.
Nimocks promised an appeal of the case, while anti-gay rights activists said they planned to mount another drive to collect signatures to put the issue onto the ballot.
Gay rights groups were elated, meanwhile. Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights, predicted that gay couples would be lining up at county offices on Monday morning to register as domestic partners.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)