Disputes in Oregon over the legality of gay marriages were put on the fast track to the state Supreme Court Wednesday under a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (search).

The civil rights group filed the suit shortly before noon in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of gay couples whose marriages were not recognized by the state's Office of Vital Statistics.

The lawsuit consolidates several other legal challenges to gay marriage brought by conservative leaders and Christian pastors, after Multnomah County (search) commissioners decided three weeks ago to grant the licenses

The gay couples named in the suit were recruited by Basic Rights Oregon (search), the gay rights group that has been most responsible for pushing the issue to the forefront in Oregon. The couples live in Multnomah, Benton and Lane counties, said Jann Carson, associate director of the ACLU's office in Portland.

The couples will file as representatives of "thousands of other couples in the state" who cannot have their same-sex marriages registered, Carson said.

Kevin Neely, spokesman for Attorney General Hardy Myers, said the state will file its response by April 5, and a decision by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden is expected by the end of that month under an expedited process agreed to by both opponents and supporters of gay marriage. That will set the stage for an immediate appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.