Oregon's ban on same-sex marriages was struck down Monday by U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, who ruled that the prohibition violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians. Jubilant couples who anticipated a favorable decision from the judge began the rush to officially wed at locations around the state. McShane allowed his order to take immediate effect.
A decade ago, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure changing the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages with 57% support. As of today, that ban is no more.
There have been quite a few legal challenges to these state bans, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year against the Defense of Marriage Act, but the Oregon case was a little different than most. In this case, the ostensible defendants -- state officials, represented by state by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) -- agreed with the plaintiffs and urged Judge McShane to strike down the anti-gay law.
The far-right National Organization for Marriage tried last week to intervene, hoping its lawyers could defend the law the state government no longer supports, but the court rejected the effort, concluding that the group had no standing in the case.
NOM quickly appealed to the 9th Circuit, which also turned the organization away.
McShane, an Obama appointee, did not include a stay in his decision, which means marriage equality will officially come to Oregon this afternoon and same-sex couples can get legally married in the state right now.
As for the larger pattern, today's Oregon ruling comes just a week after a federal court struck down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. The week before that, a court ruled against Arkansas’ anti-gay constitutional amendment.
This came a month after a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The month before that, a federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on marriage equality.
Civil-rights proponents have scored related victories in Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah and Texas, just over the last half-year or so.
For the right, that’s quite a losing streak. Indeed, how many cases have anti-gay forces won on the merits since the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling? Zero.
What's more, taking a step back, what's especially heartening for proponents of civil rights and equality is how routine success is becoming. It wasn't long ago that these cases were nerve wracking -- a gut-wrenching test of whether basic human decency would prevail -- with countless families afraid to hope for fear of bitter disappointment.
Now, every case seems to end with the same celebratory result: watching the arc of history bend closer to justice.