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The Warshaw-Knox family of five

It's been more than a year since Steve Knox rushed to a Hilton hotel in downtown Portland, Ore., on an overcast day to marry Eric Warshaw, his boyfriend of 10 years.

Knox and Warshaw were the second same-sex couple to marry in Portland on March 3, 2004. That was the first day of a six-week period during which Multnomah County, which includes Portland, issued about 3,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Click here to view USA Today's Gallery of the family.

Opponents of same-sex marriage fought back after Multnomah's action. The Oregon Republican Party backed an amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman only. In November, Oregon voters approved it by 57% to 43%. Supporters of gay marriage, however, have sued; they say the amendment violates the basic rights of gay citizens. The Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments in December; a decision is pending.

Meanwhile, a judge in San Francisco ruled Monday that California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Gay-marriage opponent Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel said he would appeal that ruling.

Oregon and 16 other states have defined marriage in their constitutions as between a man and a woman. Forty-two states have laws that prohibit same-sex marriage. (Fifteen states have both amendments and statutes.) Those laws and amendments show that the "people of America and Oregon do not want gay marriage," Tim Nashif of the Defense of Marriage Coalition told Newhouse News Service.

Warshaw says he and Knox will press ahead.

"When someone tries to take something away from you, it becomes that much more important," Warshaw says.

States have wrestled with the issue for more than a decade.

A decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in November 2003 opened a new chapter in the controversy when the court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution.

Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in May. Several other jurisdictions, including San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., also performed such marriages. Courts in California and New York later barred them.

Today, Knox and Warshaw are two of the plaintiffs urging the Oregon Supreme Court to uphold the validity of their marriage.

"The strongest reason that we did it was for our kids," Warshaw says. He and Knox have three adopted children.

"We're two hard-working doctors, involved in our kids' school, and the community," Knox says. "We hope this case will at least raise awareness and not make it (gay marriage) a knee-jerk reaction. At least, we'd like to make people wonder why they think it's wrong."

Both Knox and Warshaw say that little will change if the court rules against them. They say that to them, marriage solidifies something they already have. But for Knox, a ruling nullifying their marriage would still be an injustice.

"I would feel that the system failed me — a system I believe in and still hope exists," he says.
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