Oregon becomes 18th state to legalize gay marriage, weddings already begun

A federal judge in Oregon today struck down the state’s constitutional amending banning gay marriage. And the marriages of gay couples commenced immediately.

This was the 17th consecutive victory in state and federal courts since the Supreme Court’s momentous decision last June in US v. Windsor, which struck down a key section of the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).  It is also the 13th win in federal court.

The state of Oregon has said it will not appeal the court ruling, and while the religious right attempted to intervene, the appellate court said they had no standing to call for an appeal.

So, couples started getting married immediately after the decision was announced at around noon Oregon time, or 3pm Eastern.


Here’s a bit from the judge’s ruling:

I am aware that a large number of Oregonians, perhaps even a majority, have religious or moral objections to expanding the definition of civil marriage (and thereby expanding the benefits and rights that accompany marriage) to gay and lesbian families. It was these same objections that led to the passage of Measure 36 in 2004. Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer” and it was played with great zeal and without a moment’s thought to today’ s political correctness. On a darker level, that same worldview led to an environment of cruelty, violence, and self-loathing. It was but 1986 when the United States Supreme Court justified, on the basis of a “millennia of moral teaching,” the imprisonment of gay men and lesbian women who engaged in consensual sexual acts. Bowers, 478 U.S. at 197 (Burger, C.J., concurring), overruled by Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 578. Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’ s generation when my son looks dismissively at the sweater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, says “dad … that is so gay.”

It is not surprising then that many of us raised with such a world view would wish to
protect our beliefs and our families by turning to the ballot box to enshrine in law those traditions we have come to value. But just as the Constitution protects the expression of these moral viewpoints, it equally protects the minority from being diminished by them.

It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading “God Hates Fags” make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides. At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, 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.

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.

More snippets from the decision via a friend:

… Because Oregon’s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest, the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. …

… Oregon’s marriage laws weigh on the plaintiffs in ways less tangible, yet no less painful. The laws leave the plaintiffs and their families feeling degraded, humiliated, and stigmatized. Plaintiffs consider the time, energy, and sacrifice they devote to building a meaningful life with their loved ones, but find their efforts less worthy in the eyes of the law. They face a tiered system of recognition that grants greater legal status to married felons, deadbeat parents, and mail-order brides. They see no rationale for such treatment, and are angered by what they perceive as state-sanctioned discrimination against them. …

… One lesson to borrow from these and similar precedents is that laws regulating marriage must advance legitimate state interests, and not a mere desire to harm a particular class of its citizens…

… In striking down [DOMA], the Supreme Court explained that the law’s “principal purpose and … necessary effect” was “to demean” legally married gay and lesbian couples. “[N]o legitimate purpose” behind DOMA could overcome such injury. …

… Windsor may be distinguished from the present case in several respects. Yet, recounting such differences will not detract from the underlying principle shared in common by that case and the one now before me. The principle is one inscribed in the Constitution, and it requires that the state’s marriage laws not “degrade or demean” the plaintiffs in violation of their rights to equal protection. …

… The state’s marriage laws discriminate based on sexual orientation, not gender. In fact, the ban does not treat genders differently at all. Men and women are prohibited from doing the exact same thing: marrying an individual of the same gender. The ban does not impact males and females differently. Instead, the state’s marriage laws classify same-gender couples differently than opposite-gender couples. …

… I could independently conclude the Supreme Court did what SmithKline persuasively concluded it did. … That is unnecessary here, as the state’s marriage laws cannot withstand even the most relaxed level of scrutiny. …

… As described above, it is beyond question that Oregon’s marriage laws place burdens upon same-gender couples that are not placed upon opposite-gender couples. This classification implicates the Equal Protection Clause. Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 633 (1996) (“A law declaring that in general it shall be more difficult for one group of citizens than for all others to seek aid from the government is itself a denial of equal protection of the laws in the most literal sense.”). The Equal Protection Clause does not allow classifications drawn solely for the purpose of disadvantaging a particular group intentionally singled out for unequal treatment. …

[Meow] … Although protecting children and promoting stable families is certainly a legitimate governmental interest, the state’s marriage laws do not advance this interest-they harm it. Although the state has a legitimate interest in promoting stable families, its interest does not stop with families of opposite-gender couples. …

[Meow!] … Opposite-gender couples will continue to choose to have children responsibly or not, and those considerations are not impacted in any way by whether same-gender couples are allowed to marry. Nothing in this court’s opinion today will effect the miracle of birth, accidental or otherwise. A couple who has had an unplanned child has, by definition, given little thought to the outcome of their actions. The fact that their lesbian neighbors got married in the month prior to conception seems of little import to the stork that is flying their way. …

[Meow] … The attractiveness of marriage to opposite-gender couples is not derived from its inaccessibility to same-gender couples. …

Eighteen states – CA, CT, DE, HI, IA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, and WA – plus Washington, D.C. now have the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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31 Responses to “Oregon becomes 18th state to legalize gay marriage, weddings already begun”

  1. ShelbySkinnerura321 says:

    until I saw the receipt for $4408 , I didnt believe
    …that…my friends brother woz like actualy bringing in money part-time from
    there labtop. . there brothers friend has done this 4 only seventeen months and
    just now repayed the morgage on there cottage and got a brand new Renault 5 .
    more tips here F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  2. Badgerite says:

    As to the Oregon United picture of the top women with the marriage license at the top of the story:
    What’s wrong with this picture. Answer. Not a damned thing.

  3. Badgerite says:

    With some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Fffffffffff.

  4. 4th Turning says:

    Shlomo is God’s peace in Hebrew…

  5. dcinsider says:

    This. Never. Gets. Old.

  6. Badgerite says:

    To me, this is just another aspect of the freedom that we seek to secure to all of the nation’s citizens to lead meaningful and dignified lives. The Equal Protection clause is not optional.

  7. Annski1 says:

    Yes, exactly right. This is a big victory here in Oregon. But this so-called “legal” victory only happened because of decades of LGBT activism. Time to pivot to a march on Washington to demand ENDA!

  8. heimaey says:

    Yeah, but it’s still a pretty liberal state. I’ve been all over it and there’s definitely a hick element but there’s also a lot of hippies spread throughout and a lot of old anarchists and actual libertarians, not the faux kind. So I still think it’s strange it took so long.

  9. rmthunter says:

    Great quotes from the opinion.

    All things considered, I think one of my favorite, if not the favorite, events in this whole thing is the way NOM shot itself in the foot with the “poor, persecuted “Christians”” mantra. The “fear of reprisals” thing was just too lame — even their legal team should know that if you can’t produce an injured party, you have no case.

  10. 4th Turning says:

    In memory of all the Shlomos who didn’t make it to the “promised land”…


  11. emjayay says:

    Definitely both down to earth and poetic. Like I said above I think, well hope, that long quotations from this ruling will appear in various anthologies in the future. People should be able to read this now and in future generations.

  12. BeccaM says:

    Supposedly there’s a good chance yet another federal court ruling will be handed down tomorrow (Tuesday) for Pennsylvania, my original home state. We’ll see what happens.

  13. pappyvet says:

    How did the ant eat the elephant?

  14. cole3244 says:

    its taking a long time but love is beginning to win the battle over hate, bigotry, & intolerance.

  15. jamesnimmo says:

    Thanks so much for providing the quotes from the ruling. I can hardly contain myself.

  16. jamesnimmo says:

    Yes, I remember all too well.

  17. jamesnimmo says:

    It’s breathtaking. I can hardly contain myself.

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    Another big victory,

    After the rancid bigotry of the Clintons, (Bill Clinton gloated on redneck radio ads that he’d signed DOMA) , we endured eight long years equally putrid bigotry under the Bush Rove regime and then watched in horror as Obama insured the passage of Prop 8 in California in 2008.

    We never stopped fighting back and now the dominoes are falling. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDjcJlDg_ig

  19. Zorba says:

    Yes, so did I.
    What a wise judge. I only wish that this country had many, many more judges like him.

  20. Jim says:

    I’m verklempt!

  21. emjayay says:

    I didn’t know that judges got to be so personal and anecdotal in their rulings. I think this one will appear in anthologies in the future. I’d like to meet this guy!

  22. emjayay says:

    Like many states, Oregon is not exactly all Portlandia. A lot of it is rednecks. Probably still some from those dating back to Okies who came west in the dust bowl for logging jobs.

  23. BeccaM says:

    It’s about time, Oregon. :-)

    I did love the reference to Hollingsworth v Perry (originally Perry v Schwarzenegger) as to why NOM had no standing to defend the law or to appeal the ruling.

    Even better, how the map showing marriage equality states just keeps getting bigger.




  24. BeccaM says:

    I remember both of those horrific ‘games.’

  25. BeccaM says:

    I got a shiver down my spine when I read that.

  26. heimaey says:


  27. Indigo says:

    “Let us look less to the sky to see what will fall; rather, let us look to each other . . . and rise.”
    I nominate that one for the history books!

  28. Indigo says:

    It was weird, though..

  29. We played “smear the queer” too. Then there was the “n*gger pile”…

  30. 2patricius2 says:

    Those “popular playground games.” The painful memories that sentence brings back. I have been pleased by the other decisions issued by straight judges over the past few months. But this statement from a man who knows the sting of those games is especially poignant. Judge McShane’s whole decision was a joy to read, and it contains other sentences that were described by one person as “down-to-earth” and another as “poetic.”

  31. heimaey says:

    Now no one can say “yeah, it’s weird that Oregon is not on board…”

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