PORTLAND, Ore. – A federal judge has struck down Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban, saying it is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane threw out the voter-approved ban Monday.
State officials have said they’d be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately, and couples lined up outside the county clerk’s office in Portland in anticipation of the decision.
Four gay and lesbian couples brought suit arguing Oregon’s marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against same-sex couples and exclude them from a fundamental right.
State officials refused to defend the ban, and McShane earlier denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to intervene on behalf of its Oregon members.
An appeals court Monday morning refused the group’s request for an emergency stay of McShane’s decision.
Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom arrived early Monday at the Multnomah County Building to form the line for marriage licenses. The two have been a couple for 10 years. Engbloom proposed in April, when they celebrated their anniversary by climbing Smith Rock in Central Oregon.
“We always knew we wanted to spend our whole life together,” Brown said. “This opportunity has come, it feels right, everything has fallen into place.”
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. Federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics point out that most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the people.