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Oregon will recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages

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Gay couples can’t get married in Oregon, but state agencies must begin recognizing same-sex unions performed in other counties, according to a directive issued this week.

In a legal opinion delivered Wednesday, Oregon Deputy Attorney General Mary Williams wrote that state agencies can recognize marriages performed in other jurisdictions, even though the Oregon constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

After the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act this year, not recognizing marriages conducted in other jurisdictions “would likely violate the federal Constitution,” Williams wrote.

In a memo sent to state agencies, Department of Administrative Services Director Michael Jordan said the opinion means that state agencies “must recognize all out-of-state marriages for the purposes of administering state programs.”

Oregon courts have ruled in the past that out-of-state marriages not allowed under state law — namely common-law marriages — should still be recognized, Williams said in her opinion.

Oregon voters passed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a heterosexual union in 2004. The state has legally recognized same-sex domestic partnerships since 2008, and gay rights groups are gathering signatures to put a same-sex marriage initiative on the 2014 ballot.

Willamette Week, an alternative weekly in Portland, first reported the news.