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Marriage equality Oregon: State may soon celebrate gay marriage

Supporters of same-sex marriage gather outside the federal courthouse in Eugene, Ore. before a Wednesday morning May 14, 2014 hearing.
Supporters of same-sex marriage gather outside the federal courthouse in Eugene, Ore. before a Wednesday morning May 14, 2014 hearing.
Photo: Erica Nochlin, KATU News (used with permission)

Oregon may soon become the next state to overturn a state ban on gay marriage. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane announced that he will issue his ruling on a lawsuit on Monday. He notified attorneys in the case that he will publish full written decision on the latest case in the fight for marriage equality.

Four gay couples filed the suit arguing that Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage is a violation of their constitutional rights. The 2004 voter-approved ballot measure is in serious jeopardy of being overturned. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum declined to defend the constitutional definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman and on Wednesday McShane denied a motion to intervene by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

The anti-gay marriage group filed a last-minute motion to intervene in April, but McShane’s denial of NOM could be an early indication as to which way he will make his ruling. Even if he doesn’t overturn the ban, voters may have a chance to overturn it this November when the measure becomes a ballot initiative.

Recent history is also on the side of gay marriage supports in the state of Oregon. Since the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, federal judges in six states have ruled marriage bans as unconstitutional. Many of those states are in the process of appeal, but so far all challenges have been won by same-sex couples who have filed lawsuits.

If McShane does indeed strike down Oregon’s ban on gay marriage, the state will join neighboring state Idaho in overturning the ban. On Wednesday, a federal judge refused to stay her decision that would’ve stalled gay couples in Idaho from obtaining marriage licenses. Although the ruling was temporarily put on hold on Thursday, Idaho’s ruling, along with gay marriage being legal in the border states of Washington and California lays fourth a promising path for marriage equality in Oregon and the entire northwest portion of the nation.