Portland attorney Lake Perriguey, center, is flanked by other attorneys as he leaves
a hearing last month in the Eugene courtroom of U.S. District Judge Michael McShane.
(Jeff Mapes/The Oregonian)
The legal bill for Oregon taxpayers is starting to come due in Oregon's same-sex marriage case.
Portland attorney Lake Perriguey, who filed the first lawsuit challenging Oregon's ban on gay marriage, filed a motion Tuesday seeking $184,090 in legal fees for work leading up to U.S. District Judge Michael McShane's May 19 decision striking down the state constitutional provision limiting marriageto one man and one woman.
Attorneys involved in another lawsuit involved in the case filed a motion with McShane asking for an extension until July 1 to make their own request for legal fees.
Under a 1976 federal law, prevailing parties in civil rights cases can seek attorney fees to defray their costs. The idea was to encourage legal actions aimed at upholding the civil rights laws.
"Attorneys have to be paid to take on these kinds of cases for plaintiffs who otherwise would not able to afford these actions," said Perriguey, who added that he billed a relatively modest amount given how much work he and his legal team put in.
He said Oregon taxpayers are on the hook because it was the state's voters who enacted Measure 36 in 2004, which limited marriage to one man and one woman. McShane struck down that provision, ruling that it violated the federal constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples.
"It was the people of Oregon [who enacted those provisions] and they have to pay now," said Perriguey.
In a memorandum filed with McShane, Perriguey argued:
The results obtained in this case are exceptional and manifold. Plaintiffs' courage to bring this case when they did, despite opposition from many quarters, resulted in the recognition and confirmation of the constitutional rights of all Oregon citizens, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, resulted in the gay and lesbian equality under the law for the first time in Oregon history, and will result in a financial benefit to the State of Oregon. By way of just a couple of examples, a same-gender spouse is now able to access a former spouse's federal social security benefits, bringing federal money into Oregon and reducing the burden on the State. And, thanks to the Windsor decision coupled with the Geiger decision, a surviving same-gender spouse will no longer have to send inheritance taxes out of Oregon and to Washington.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who joined plaintiffs in seeking to strike down Oregon's prohibition on same-sex marriage, will have an opportunity to weigh in with McShane on whether the claims for legal fees are reasonable.
Perriguey is also seeking reimbursement for $967.50 in filing fees.