Yay! The U.S. got a little closer to marriage equality on Monday when a federal judge struck down Oregon's gay marriage ban, calling it unconstitutional and setting off a flurry of celebrations in the state. The ruling made Oregon the 18th state, plus DC, where gay marriage is legal. The change to the law would be put into effect almost immediately, meaning marriages will start at county clerk offices across Oregon today, the Associated Press reported.
Couples across Oregon were lining up at county clerk offices to say their wedding vows on Monday afternoon. Oregon's voters had approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage that went into effect in 2004, which was legally backed up by the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. But big parts of DOMA were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last June, and attorneys general across the country have stopped defending legal challenges to the law.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane decided the laws were discriminatory, striking down the law and issuing an order calling the ban unenforceable in the state. In his opinion, he said the couples who challenged the ban in court were loving families with meaningful careers. But he noted that even if they weren't, it wouldn't matter.
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 that 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.
Couples started lining up early for the chance to finally marry on Monday.
McShane, who is one of eight judges to have struck down similar bans in other states, though some are appealing. Oregon's attorney general didn't defend the law in the case and won't appeal the decision, according to the AP.
McShane put it most eloquently in his 26-page opinion on Monday:
My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. 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 lurking 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.
Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other ... and rise.