- (Photo: Reuters/David McNew)
As a federal judge is scheduled to issue his ruling Monday on a constitutional challenge to Oregon's same-sex marriage ban, officials are prepared to issue marriage licenses immediately if a stay is not put on the decision. The state is not defending the state's voter-approved ban.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane will publish his decision at noon Monday, according to The Associated Press.
Officials in Multnomah County say they are prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses immediately if the ruling calls for it.
Representing two women in a relationship for over three decades, attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton in Portland, Oregon, filed a lawsuit last October, arguing that the state's marriage laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional and violate their right to marriage. Later the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyers from two firms also joined in on behalf of a lesbian couple and a gay couple.
The ban in Oregon was approved by 57 percent of voters in 2004 following a brief period when Multnomah County issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As many as 3,000 licenses were issued before a judge halted the practice. Later, the Oregon Supreme Court annulled the marriages.
However, Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has said he will not defend the ban. She believes no legal arguments can support it given last year's decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber also supports same-sex marriage.
In April, McShane refused to allow the National Organization for Marriage to intervene in the case while hearing arguments on the case. The group intended to intervene on behalf of its Oregon members after the attorney general's decision not to defend the ban, but the judge said the group cannot represent Oregon voters.
Federal judges in several states have struck down state amendments and laws banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional since the Supreme Court's decision last June to squash a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. They have revoked bans also in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, and ordered Kentucky and Tennessee to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. However, stays have been issued pending appeals.
Advocacy groups claim they have gathered enough signatures in Oregon for a vote in November on whether gay marriage should be allowed.
Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in 17 states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – and the District of Columbia.