Same-sex couples across the state are getting married today after a federal judge overturned Oregon’s decade-old ban on same-sex marriage.
In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane wrote: “Because Oregon’ s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest, the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
McShane went on to write:
“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 as it affords 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 couples who wish to marry within the confines of our geographic borders.”
The decision comes after four same-sex couples challenged Ballot Measure 36, which amended the Oregon Constitution in 2004 to say “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as marriage.”
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she would not defend the ban in February, leaving the ban undefended until D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage requested to intervene in the matter in April:
“As a membership organization, we speak on behalf of our members, including a County Clerk in the state, several professionals in the wedding industry, and voters” NOM President Brian S. Brown wrote in a statement. “All of these individuals have a particularized interest in the outcome of the litigation, yet their interests are not being represented.”
McShane permitted the group to speak on behalf of its Oregon members in May. McShane later denied their request, saying “This is an Oregon case; it will stay in Oregon.”
Earlier, NOM filed a stay request with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was later denied.
As this was all happening, same-sex couples and supporters gathered in Portland, Eugene and elsewhere across the state in an anticipation of the ruling. Counties statewide are prepared to issue the new marriage license forms to same-sex couples. Couples may request to waive the state’s three-day wait period following the issue of a marriage license.
“We’ll treat it just like a regular marriage license,” Malheur County Clerk Deborah DeLong said.
“We’re all ready,” Tillamook County Clerk Tassi O’Neil said just before the ruling. “We’re prepared to follow the law.”