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Monday, May 19, 2014

Marriage News Watch, 5/19/14; Oregon Marriages Begin

Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights reports:

And good news from the Beaver State: U. S. District Judge Michael J. McShane overturned Oregon's same-sex marriage ban today, holding that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of equal protection. By separate order, the ruling is effective immediately. The National Organization for Marriage filed an emergency appeal for a stay with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Ninth Circuit promptly told NOM to go take a hike. Gotta love it.

According to the Christian Science Monitor:
Prior to the Oregon decision, 17 states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex marriages. Thirty-three states had banned gay marriage either by passing a statute or enacting a constitutional amendment.

In addition to Monday’s action in Oregon, federal judges have struck down same-sex marriage bans in six other states – Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Michigan, and, last week, in Idaho. Those decisions have all been stayed and are either under appeal or are about to be appealed.

A state judge in Arkansas also recently struck down that state’s limitations on same-sex marriage. The Arkansas Supreme Court has stayed that ruling pending an appeal.
The Oregonian has a number of videos of the first couples to marry today, with county clerks waiving - for a fee - the state's normal three-day waiting requirement.

In his opinion, Judge McShane made this telling observation about Oregon law:
Despite the fact that these couples [the plaintiffs] present so vividly the characteristics of a loving and supportive relationship, none of these ideals we attribute to marriage are spousal prerequisites under Oregon law. In fact, Oregon recognizes a marriage of love with the same equal eye that it recognizes a marriage of convenience. It affords the same set of rights and privileges to Tristan and Isolde that it affords to a Hollywood celebrity waking up in Las Vegas with a blurry memory and a ringed finger. It does not, however, afford these very same rights to gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry within the confines of our geographic borders.
And the learned judge, who happens to be gay, said this in his poignant conclusion:
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.

Full text of the ruling here.

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