PORTLAND -- Multnomah County has sided with two Oregon couples who are suing the state to overturn a constitutional same-sex marriage ban.

Couples Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, along with Robert Duehmig and William Griesar, are suing Multnomah County, Governor Kitzhaber and state officers, asserting that a ban on same-sex marriage violates their civil rights.

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In a legal response released Tuesday, Multnomah County Chair Marissa Madrigal stated that the county supports same-sex marriage even though it has been charged with enforcing a state ban put in place in 2004.

Current state law boxes Multnomah County in the unavoidable position of being subject to suit for currently failing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite its long history of supporting marriage equality and issuing marriage licenses a decade ago to same sex-couples, Madrigal says.

In 2004 the county began granting same-sex marriage licenses until the state courts clamped down and a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman settled the matter.

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In January, a federal judge consolidated two lawsuits filed separately by the couples into one. The suits named the county, Gov. Kitzhaber, the state s attorney general and state registrar.

On Feb. 20, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated that she would not defend the state in the suit.

State Defendants will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation, Rosenblum said in the documents filed in federal court. Rather, they will take the position ... that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.

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However, some local groups saw Rosenblum s position as a dereliction of duty. Oregon Family Council said at the time that the decision by Rosenblum was an 'attack on democracy.'

In recent months a half-dozen state bans on same-sex marriage have fallen due to court challenges.

The Oregon case will be heard in a Federal Court in Eugene in April.

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