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PORTLAND, Ore. – U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled today that Oregon’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional—paving the way for couples to begin marrying immediately.
"I am so thrilled to have the freedom to marry the love of my life. Marriage strengthens families like mine, and for me, it’s as simple as treating others as one would hope to be treated," said Paul Rummell, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "No one should be told it is illegal to marry the person they love."
In his ruling, McShane wrote, "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."
The consolidated case— Rummell v. Kitzhaber and Geiger v. Kitzhaber and — was argued last month. The lawsuit alleged that Oregon’s constitutional ban on marriage for lesbian and gay couples—Measure 36—violates the U.S. Constitution. Rummell was filed on behalf of two couples who wish to marry in Oregon and the Basic Rights Education Fund by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oregon, and volunteer counsel from the law firms of Johnson, Johnson & Schaller, PC and Perkins Coie, LLP. Geiger was filed on behalf of two couples by Law Works, LLC and Dorsay & Easton, LLP.
"The importance of Judge McShane’s decision cannot be overemphasized," says David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Our federal Constitution does not allow any state – or its voters – to deny same sex couples equal protection under the law simply because of who they are and who they love. This type of discrimination is wrong and it’s also unconstitutional.”
The anti-marriage equality group National Organization for Marriage (NOM) attempted to intervene in the case just before the April 23 hearing. On May 14, Judge McShane denied their motion. NOM filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 19, and also requested an emergency stay of Judge McShane’s ruling. The request for a stay was denied, but the appeal is still pending.
"After years of working in every way possible way to bring the freedom to marry to Oregon, today is a historic day," says 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."
"Today Oregon joins the increasing number of states in embracing the freedom to marry for all," said Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "This decision brings us one step closer to ensuring that all loving and committed couples will be able to take care of each other and their loved ones with the protections and dignity that only come through marriage."