Federal Judge Strikes Down Oregon's Same-Sex Marriage Ban; Couples May Marry Today

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As was widely expected, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage on Monday, freeing up LGBT couples in the state to wed. The decision, issued without a stay, will go into effect today. Because Oregon's Attorney General has decided against defending the state's ban in court at all, the state will not appeal the decision. According to the AP, Oregon's largest county will begin issuing licenses immediately. (Update: They already are. Same-sex couples are currently marrying in Oregon)

In his decision, McShane wrote that the voter-approved ban violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection clause. He wrote of the plaintiffs: 

Despite the fact that these couples present so vividly the characteristics of a loving and supportive relationship, none of these ideals we attribute to marriage are spousal prerequisites under Oregon law. In fact, Oregon recognizes a marriage of love with the same equal eye that it recognizes a marriage of convenience. It affords the same set of rights and privileges to Tristan and Isolde that it does to a Hollywood celebrity waking up in Las Vegas with a blurry memory and a ringed finger. It does not, however, afford these very same rights to gay and lesbian couple who wish to marry within the confines of our geographic borders. 

Although McShane noted that even the state believed these laws to be unconstitutional, the opinion also addresses one of the primary arguments mounted against same-sex marriage, i.e. the state's interest in protecting the children who live there: 

Nor does prohibiting same-gender marriage further Oregon's interest in protecting all children. For example, the state's interest in protecting children concerns more than just those children created in wedlock...the state has an interest in protecting all children, including adopted children...and the state does not treat "naturally and legitimately conceived" children any different than children conceived in other ways

Couples gathered at county marriage license offices across the state on Monday awaiting the decision, which McShane had previously said would come at noon. Many, including one of the plaintiff couples in the case, were prepared to marry immediately, as the Oregonian reported. 

Earlier on Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the National Organization for Marriage's request for a stay on the ruling, should it be against the ban. McShane previously denied the anti-same-sex-marriage group's request to participate in defending the ban, since the state would not do it themselves. The group plans to file an appeal against that decision. 


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.