Judge Finds Oregon’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Judge Finds Oregon’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

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1400528331000-AP-Gay-Marriage-OregonThe air is vibrating with excitement in Oregon and across the nation following U.S. District Judge Michael McShane’s decision, effective immediately, making marriage equality a reality in Oregon Monday.

The consolidated case—Geiger v. Kitzhaber, filed on October 13, 2013, and Rummell v. Kitzhaber, filed on December 19, 2013—was argued on April 23, 2014. Attorneys Lake Perriguey (Law Works, LLC) and Lea Ann Easton (Dorsay & Easton, LLP), argued on behalf of plaintiff couples Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, and Robert Duehmig and William Griesar. Attorneys Rose Saxe and Amanda Goad (American Civil Liberties Union), Kevin Diaz (ACLU of Oregon), and volunteer counsel Misha Isaak and Tom Johnson (Perkins Coie, LLP), and Jennifer Middleton (Johnson, Johnson & Schaller, PC), argued on behalf of two additional couples—Paul Rummell and Ben West, and Chris Tanner and Lisa Chickadonz—and Basic Rights Education Fund.

“After years of working in every way possible way to bring the freedom to marry to Oregon, today is a historic day,” said Vanessa Usui, board chair of Basic Rights Education Fund. “Starting with a ballot measure, and ultimately with this court victory, we have finally ensured that all loving, committed same-sex couples are free to marry in Oregon.”

Justin Pabalate, Oregon resident and longtime Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) volunteer, worked as a field organizer for Basic Rights Oregon. Pabalate enthused, “I’m thrilled with today’s decision! After working long, hard, endless hours to bring the freedom to marry to Oregon, I am overwhelmed with joy to finally have the chance to say ‘I DO!’ in front of my friends and family.”

Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement at Freedom to Marry and a key adviser to Oregon United for Marriage, said: “Today Judge McShane did the right thing for families, affirming that the denial of marriage to committed same-sex couples in Oregon is unconstitutional. In recognition of the strong support for marriage among Oregonians, no one with legal standing, including our state Attorney General, wanted to go down in history as defending discrimination. Across the country, the courts agree: same-sex couples and their families need the protections of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. With over 70 marriage cases now making their way through the courts, today’s decision in Oregon underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

A poll by Oregon Public Broadcasting in late April found that 58 percent of Oregonians support the freedom to marry. The Oregon ruling is the latest in more than a dozen federal and state rulings in favor of the freedom to marry in recent months.

In a 26-page decision, which takes effect immediately, Judge McShane found that Oregon’s statutes and constitutional amendment banning the freedom to marry violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. McShane also understands that marriage equality is not only about civil rights and civil equality, but about love, devotion, and family as well.

Judge McShane professed: “At the core of the Equal Protection Clause…there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities…I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows luring in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community…Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other…and rise.”

“There is no defense for discrimination, as the State of Oregon made clear in refusing to defend the state marriage ban in court. Today’s decision brings marriage equality to the entire West Coast as the state of our unions grows ever stronger,” said MEUSA Legal and Policy Director John Lewis.

Tracy Hollister, MEUSA Program Manager and former Oregonian, said, “I’m delighted to hear the news that my home state of Oregon has become our country’s 18th freedom to marry state! Marriage Equality USA and the National Equality Action Team (NEAT) have been standing by ready to provide national phone banking support for the ballot initiative to win marriage in Oregon in case it was needed. With today’s decision wedding bells will ring out across Oregon, and we will redirect our volunteer power to other states to build even greater support nationwide for marriage equality.”

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