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Oregon county issues same-sex marriage licenses

Bobbi Davis, left, and Heather Spotts, joined other supporters of marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Bobbi Davis, left, and Heather Spotts join other supporters of same-sex marriage in Portland, Oregon.

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Multnomah County, Oregon, will start issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
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PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- Multnomah County, Oregon's most populous county, started granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples Wednesday after the county attorney said refusing to do so is unconstitutional.

"The Oregon Constitution prohibits the county from discriminating against same-sex couples when they are applying for marriage licenses because that kind of discrimination based on gender and based on sexual orientation is not allowed in Oregon," said Multnomah County Attorney Agnes Sowle at a news conference in Portland, the county seat.

Immediately afterward, the county began handing out licenses to waiting couples, many of them clutching bouquets, some with children in tow.

One woman, holding up her license, said she had been waiting 16 years for the day. She said she and her partner planned to marry immediately.

Some couples had lined up in the wee hours of the morning outside the marriage office in Portland. Many sang the lyrics from "Chapel of Love" as they waited.

They came after Diane Linn, chairwoman of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, ordered the county Tuesday to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

It's unclear how state officials will respond. Attorney General Hardy Myers has been meeting with Gov. Ted Kulongoski and will soon announce the state's "marching plans," said Myers spokesman Kevin Neely.

Neely described Oregon's marriage law as "ambiguous."

The law reads: "Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable."

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