That means that as of Jan. 1, Oregon will join eight other states that 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.
Later this week, word is expected on whether opponents gathered enough signatures to block a gay-rights law that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation — though that effort, as well, appears to be lacking sufficient signatures.
Social-conservative and church groups mounted the signature-gathering drive after the two gay-rights laws were approved by the Democratic-controlled Oregon Legislature with strong backing from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, also a Democrat.
The state's largest gay-rights group called Monday's announcement a "proud day for Oregon."
"In refusing to sign these petitions, Oregonians showed that they aren't interested in rolling back our anti-discrimination laws," said John Hummel, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.
Sponsors of the referral effort had conceded in recent days that they probably hadn't gotten enough signatures. But they vowed to take another avenue to try to derail the laws — an initiative effort to repeal the laws outright. They would have until next July to collect 82,000 valid signatures to repeal each of the two laws.