Judge strikes down Oregon gay marriage ban — weddings begin


A federal judge in Oregon has struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on grounds that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling at noon Monday by U.S. District Judge Michael McShane sets the stage for marriages to begin, making Oregon the 18th state where marriage equality is legal.

“Because Oregon’s marriage laws discriminate on a basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest, the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Judge McShane said in his opinion.

The first gay couple to get married in the state did so just minutes after the ruling was released, according to The Oregonian.

Marriage equality has come to the West in the past two years.

Washington voted for marriage equality in 2012. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand lower court rulings that threw out California’s anti-gay Propostion 8. The Hawaii Legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage. And New Mexico state courts ruled in favor of marriage equality.

“Especially proud to be an Oregonian today,” U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., tweeted after Judge McShane’s ruling.

Opponents of marriage equality had suffered a triple setback in Oregon even before Monday’s ruling.

The state refused to mount a legal defense of the 2004 constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage, with Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum saying the state would likely lose in court. Judge McShane refused to allow the National Organization for Marriage, an opponent of same-sex marriage, to intervene in the case.

And, Monday morning,  the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant an advance stay on the judge’s anticipated ruling.

Same-sex couples were lined up at the Multnomah County Building in Portland, waiting to get hitched as soon as Judge McShane’s ruling came down.

Supporters of marriage equality have strung together a dozen court victories in recent months, with federal judges throwing out gay marriage bans in several of America’s most conservative states.

The court wins began with a December ruling against Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. Couples of the same gender were able to wed for 17 days until the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and issued a stay of the ruling, pending appeal. A federal magistrate judge ruled last week that Idaho’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit did grant an emergency stay.

Rulings against same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Virginia are now before federal appellate courts. The cases seem headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.



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