Same-sex marriage in Oregon won yet another skirmish Wednesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop gay men and lesbians from marrying as requested by the National Organization for Marriage.
Hundreds of same-sex couples in Oregon have received marriage licenses since May 19, when U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled that the state's ban on such nuptials violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
A furious burst of court action preceded McShane's ruling.
Four same-sex couples sued to overturn the ban, but Oregon Atty. Gen. Ellen Rosenblum refused to defend it in federal court. So the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage stepped in to argue on behalf of the prohibition.
Five days before McShane struck down the ban, he denied NOM's request to intervene in the case. NOM appealed that denial May 16. Just hours before McShane ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, NOM filed to stop the court proceedings and keep the judge from ruling.
At 11:15 a.m. May 19, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the stay. At noon, McShane struck down the ban and ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Wedding bells immediately began to ring.
NOM filed another petition, this one with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that same-sex marriages be halted.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court denied that request in a terse, one-sentence ruling. But the legal wrangling is not over. Later this year, the 9th Circuit will decide whether NOM had the right to intervene in the Oregon case to defend the ban on same-sex marriage.
"Obviously, we're delighted" by the Supreme Court's decision, said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, which represented some of the couples in the case.
"Since last June's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court [overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act], every federal court that's looked at this question has concluded that state bans on marriage by same-sex couples are unconstitutional," he said. "We're delighted that Oregon has joined the list, and it looks like it's going to stay there."
Rosenblum, the state attorney general, hailed the high court's refusal to step in.
"Today's ruling, which, notably, came from the full United States Supreme Court, allows the celebrations of marriages of same-sex couples in Oregon to continue without interruption," she said in a statement, adding that she believed McShane's decision ultimately would be upheld.