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Oregon Editors Say:

County muddled marriage debate

Secrecy added needless bitterness to an already emotional issue

The Oregonian

For Ava Li-Kennedy, the legal back-and-forth in Judge Dale Koch's courtroom Monday was about as riveting as a rocking chair. Ava may not have taken it all in, but the 9-month-old had a front-row seat, a vested interest and you could even call her a lively argument in the debate on gay marriage.

Ava's parents, Mary Li and Rebecca Kennedy, were the first lesbian couple to be married last week in Multnomah County. At the end of Monday's hearing, Judge Koch ruled that the county ' which has already issued roughly 1,600 wedding licenses to gay couples ' can keep on issuing them while the legality of its actions are tested in court.

I'm the first speed bump of many that will occur in this case, Koch said, before refusing to slow the county down.

The county's secretive approach has rightfully drawn objections, but Monday's ruling showed again that it's harder to stop something that's already happening than to prevent something that hasn't happened yet. Monday, the Defense of Marriage Coalition could not persuade Koch that issuing additional licenses will cause greater harm.

The judge could also have stopped the marriages immediately if he found the county had little prospect of legally prevailing; he didn't. But the coalition's attorneys made a compelling argument that opponents of gay marriage shouldn't have been shut out of the county's decision-making process.

— Even if the county's tactics prove not to be legally disqualifying, they have charged a difficult debate with unnecessary bitterness. As Multnomah County's new marriage policy faces many more legal and political challenges, it will stir reactions far louder than the well-behaved Ava's.

Judge Koch's findings that same-sex marriages could continue, and that the constitutional question did not have an obvious answer, set the grounds for a legitimate debate. Monday shouldn't have been its first official airing in public.

OIT pulls its weight The (Klamath Falls) Herald and News

Oregon Institute of Technology graduates continue to show the value of the education they get. OIT President Martha Anne Dow reported to the State Board of Higher Education recently that 91 percent of the 2002 graduates have jobs in their fields of study, at an average starting salary of &

36;45,500.

That's no surprise: The school has racked up similar statistics for many years. They vary a bit from year to year, but the message is always the same: OIT graduates command good salaries, almost always in their chosen fields. The school is one of the state's smaller higher education institutes, but its presence is felt.

The fact that OIT is producing the kind of high-tech graduates that the Oregon economy badly needs deserves recognition and support from state government. We hope the state board and the Legislature continue to recognize that.