Supreme Court Opens Gateway for Gay Marriage in Oregon

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay a federal judge's decision overturning a state constitutional amendment approved by voters and requiring state recognition of same-sex marriage in Oregon while an appeal is processed.

In a one sentence order issued Wednesday, the highest court in the land denied the request by the National Organization for Marriage to stay the ruling last month allowing for gay marriages in the West Coast state.

"The application for stay presented to Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied," reads the order in full.

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In a statement released on the day of the order, John Eastman, Chairman of NOM denounced the Supreme Court's refusal to provide the stay.

"It's important to recognize that the Supreme Court has not decided the merits of the underlying issue. NOM has filed an appeal of the trial judge's decision to prevent us from intervening in the case to defend Oregon's marriage amendment," stated Eastman.

"That appeal is on track, with briefs due in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in August and September, and oral argument sometime afterwards."

In November 2004, Oregon voters passed a ballot initiative called the Oregon Marriage Measure 36, which added a marriage definition to the state's constitution.

"It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage," read Measure 36, which passed with 56.63 percent of the vote.

Last year, four gay couples filed suit against the marriage amendment as part of the many lawsuits against various state marriage amendments across the United States.

In February, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum officially refused to defend the amendment, arguing that it violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane struck down the marriage amendment in the Geiger v. Kitzhaber case. Unlike similar decisions in other states, McShane did not put a stay on his decision pending appeal.

According to the group Freedom to Marry, since Oregon has stopped defending the law, the state has become the 19th in the nation to legalize gay marriage.

In a statement released regarding the decision, Rosenblum expressed confidence that NOM will not be seen as having standing to defend the marriage amendment.

"Today's ruling, which, notably, came from the full United States Supreme Court, allows the celebrations of marriages of same-sex couples in Oregon to continue without interruption," said Rosenblum.

"I am confident that the federal district court's ruling denying NOM's 'last minute' motion to intervene will be upheld, as will Judge McShane's historic decision overturning Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage on the ground that it denies same-sex couples equal protection under the United States Constitution."

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