Oregon Upholds Marriage Equality


Oregon is a state-approved safe haven where gay and lesbian couples are now free to marry after a judge invalidated the state’s approved ban on gay marriage. The ruling, which came earlier this week, makes Oregon the 17th state in the U.S.to join the other states that uphold marriage equality

Immediately after Federal District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled Oregon’s voter-approved ban as unconstitutional, marriage licenses were issued and more than dozen couples said their I Do’s. Mc Shane in his ruling,made it clear that the ban was discriminatory against gay couples and ordered Oregon to discontinue it. Another silent yet noteworthy victory is that Oregon State officials refused to defend the ban in court. The gay rights group, Oregon United for Marriage, reported that many couples immediately applied for licences and chose to get married just hours later, having waited for a long time to do so.  The group reported more than 70 licenses were issued in Portland, Multnomah County. The county also reported that plaintiffs in the case, Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, married first after the decision was announced to the public. Knowing the battle was half won when the ban was challenged, couples in Portland lined up for their legal permits at least four hours before McShane released his opinion in Eugene.

An Oregon law banned gay marriage was added it to the constitution back in 2004 after the measure  was approved by the voters. The decision, approved by 57 percent of voters, came months after  Multomah approved marriage licenses for about 3,000 couples. The joy was short-lived,though,as a judge halted the process and the Oregon Supreme Court invalidated the unions. Justifying his decision to overturn the ruling, McShane acknowledged the plaintiffs as nothing more or less than families. He asked that the others look for a moment past the gender and sexuality of the plaintiffs and insisted that the constitution had to exert its right of protection.

McShane struck down the ban on marriage equality in Oregon, but was met with resistance on the way. Denying a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law for its Oregon members, he judged the case in the favor of the four gay and lesbian couples who argued that the state’s marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminated them from the fundamental right to marry. A panel of the 9th U.S.  Circuit Court of Appeals refused an emergency stay on the decision, allowing gay marriage to be legally recognized in Oregon.

McShane found an ally in Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, when she refused to defend the ban, citing a lack of legal arguments that could support the law after rulings made last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year, making it a milestone in the fight for marriage equality. The law banned federal agencies from recognizing same sex-marriage, but now states like Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee  are having their versions of  DOMA reversed by judges in those states. A gay rights group in the process of collecting enough signatures to force a state-wide vote on gay marriage offered to stop campaigning if the court ruled in their favor by May 23. Oregon has now upheld marriage equality, making it the latest to do so in a long list of states that still need to so.

After McShane struck down the ban, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball backed McShane by ruling that a stay would be unfair to the couples with cases related to with adoptions, child care and custody, medical decisions and inheritance, refusing to grant the state a 21-day hold to repeal the decision. Oregon now joins Hawaii and New Mexico, upholding marriage equality making it an important milestone in the journey to equality.

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan

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