PORTLAND, Ore. – A federal judge on Friday placed on hold a state domestic partnership law that was set to take effect Jan. 1, pending a February hearing.
The law would give some spousal rights to same-sex couples.
Opponents asked U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman to intercede after the Oregon secretary of state's office ruled in October that they had failed to collect enough valid signatures on a referendum to block the law.
The Oregon measure covers benefits related to inheritance rights, child-rearing and custody, joint state tax filings, joint health, auto and homeowners insurance policies, visitation rights at hospitals and others. It does not affect federal benefits for married couples, including Social Security and joint filing of federal tax returns.
After the Legislature approved the domestic partnership law this year, gay rights opponents launched an effort to collect enough signatures to suspend the law and place it on the November 2008 ballot for a statewide vote.
But state elections officials said this fall that the effort fell 116 valid signatures short of the 55,179 needed to suspend the law.
In court Friday, Austin Nimocks, a lawyer for Alliance Defense Fund, which opposes the measure, said the state's review process was flawed, disenfranchising citizens who had signed petitions.
The state's largest gay rights group, Basic Rights Oregon, criticized the judge's decision.
"It's unfair our families once again are bearing the brunt of this ongoing struggle," said Jeana Frazzini, a spokesman for the group.
Eight other states have approved spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples — Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay couples to marry.