U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the ban unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and ordered the state not to enforce it. State officials earlier refused to defend the constitutional ban in court.
McShane joined judges in seven other states who have struck down gay marriage bans, though appeals are underway.
“I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries,” wrote McShane, in his ruling. “To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other … and rise.”
Same-sex couples begin tying the knot in Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jubilant couples are rushing to the altar after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The ruling from Judge Michael McShane came shortly after noon. Couples across the state quickly started getting marriage licenses and, in some cases, going through with the ceremony.
In Portland, some couples lined up for their licenses more than four hours before McShane released his opinion in Eugene.
Kelly and Patty Reagan took the day off work to get married, their kids along with them.
Kelly Reagan says Monday’s ruling is the final validation — “the official stamp.”
In northeast Portland, leaders from the group Oregon United for Marriage read McShane’s opinion aloud to thrilled supporters.
In Eugene, couples gathered at a downtown restaurant to celebrate and tie the knot.
Oregon state officials have said they’d be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately, and couples lined up outside the county clerk’s office in Portland in anticipation of the McShane’s decision.
Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom arrived early Monday at the Multnomah County Building to form the line for marriage licenses. The two have been a couple for 10 years. Engbloom proposed in April, when they celebrated their anniversary by climbing Smith Rock in Cen tral Oregon.
“We always knew we wanted to spend our whole life together,” Brown said. “This opportunity has come, it feels right, everything has fallen into place.”
Four gay and lesbian couples brought the Oregon cases, arguing the state’s marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against them and exclude them from a fundamental right to marriage.
Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum refused to defend the ban, saying there are no legal arguments that could support it in light of decisions last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. She sided with the couples, asking the judge to overturn the ban, and says she won’t appeal.
The judge denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law on behalf of its Oregon members. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused the group’s request for an emergency stay of that decision, allowing same-sex marriages to proceed.
Gay rights groups previously said the y’ve collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage in November. But they said they would discard the signatures and drop their campaign if the court rules in their favor by May 23.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It determined the law improperly deprived gay couples of due process.
In addition to Oregon, federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
But opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics note most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most of those that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the will of the people.
Oregon law has long prohibited same-sex marriage, and voters added the ban to the state constitution in 2004. The decision, approved by 57 percent of voters, came months after Multnomah County briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Multnomah is the state’s largest county and includes Portland.
About 3,000 gay couples were allowed to marry before a judge halted the practice. The Oregon Supreme Court later invalidated the marriages.
Oregon joins the growing list of states where federal or state judges have ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional; among them: Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
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