A national organization dedicated to keeping gay couples from the altar cannot intervene Oregon’s marriage equality suit, a federal judge has ruled, leaving the state’s decade-old ban on same-sex nuptials utterly defenseless.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, a President Obama appointee and one of only nine openly gay members of the federal judiciary, denied a motion to intervene by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) following an hour of oral arguments on Wednesday.
The hearing follows one three weeks ago, in which only opponents of Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban had the opportunity to make their case. Earlier in the year, Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Gov. John Kitzhaber, State Registrar Jennifer Woodward, and the Center for Health Statistics and Multnomah County Assessor Randy Waldruff walked away from the Beaver State’s 2004 marriage law, leaving no defendant with legal standing to argue on its behalf.
NOM filed a last-minute motion to intervene in April, arguing that the group had standing because it represented residents -- including a county clerk, a wedding service provider, and a voter -- who supported the ban. But the group declined to identify those members on Wednesday, citing fears they’d be harassed, the Associated Press reported.
Judge McShane did not indicate when he would rule on the constitutionality of Oregon’s ban, but his decision Wednesday could still be appealed by NOM.
Oregon currently has dual campaigns underway for November ballot initiatives – one that would legalize same-sex marriage, and another that would “protect religious freedom,” a measure many believe could open the door to broad discrimination against gays and lesbians. Backers of the marriage equality initiative have said that they would drop their campaign if Judge McShane issued his decision by May 23 – the deadline to submit signatures for early review.
Meanwhile, one state over, a federal judge refused to stay her decision this week that struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex nuptials. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale said Wednesday that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's appeal faced long odds, the AP reported, leaving no reason to keep gay and lesbian couples from obtaining marriage licenses as early as Friday.