Oregon's Gay Couples Rush to Tie the Knot After Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal

Tue, 20 May 2014 15:34:47 PDT

Oregonians Dawn Jones and Caroline Redstone have been together for five years, and in a few months, Redstone is due to give birth to their baby. Though they longed for it, their marriage was an impossible dream until Monday when a U.S. District Court Judge ruled Oregon’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional, opening the doors for same-sex weddings to begin.

“It was just this sense of joy,” said Jones, just 20 minutes after tying the knot with Redstone on Monday.

Jones’ voice contained the palpable delight every person should feel on their wedding day. In addition to giving her the legal right to marry the person she loves, she said the judge’s decision gave hope to gay marriage’s “long-term fight itself.”

After the announcement was made, same-sex wedding bells did ring—and quickly. Pro-gay marriage advocacy group Oregon United For Marriage helped set up a streamlined system for eager couples to have a wedding with all the trimmings. A few blocks from the courthouse inside Portland's Melody Ballroom, there were calligraphers, photographers, officiants, and everything else couples might need to get married. 

“I am so thrilled to have the freedom to marry the love of my life,” Paul Rummell, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement. “Marriage strengthens families like mine, and for me, it’s as simple as treating others as one would hope to be treated.”

In the opinion issued yesterday by Federal Judge Michael McShane, he seemed to agree. His opinion sounded more like poetry than legalese as he addressed the changing definition of family, dispelling common arguments that say same-sex marriage threatens the stability of “traditional” families.

McShane wrote:

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.

Many Oregonians have objections to same-sex marriage, wrote McShane, as demonstrated in 2004 with the passing of Measure 36, which amended the state's Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

But just as the U.S. constitution defends these people’s right to their own moral and religious views, it protects minorities—gay or otherwise—from being “diminished” by those views. He wrote:

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...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. 

McShane’s decision is a result of two lawsuits consolidated into a federal case last month. Just before the April 23 hearing, the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, tried to intervene and postpone the oral arguments, but McShane denied their motion, and on Tuesday the group's request for an emergency stay was denied.

That's why weddings began immediately. Anticipating the ruling, gay couples had set up lawn chairs in front of the Multnomah County building in Portland, and began receiving marriage licenses within minutes of the judge’s decision. Some standing in line were handed pink roses by a County employee. The very first couple to get married were plaintiffs Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson. 

And while another appeal on the decision is still pending, gay marriage supporters are confident Oregon is moving in the right direction. More than 160,000 residents have signed a petition to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would overturn the gay marriage ban, according to the ACLU.

The victory in Oregon was part of a one-two punch for marriage equality this week. On Tuesdays, a federal judge’s decision legalized gay marriage in Pennsylvania as well. In his opinion, Judge John Jones wrote that the label of “same-sex marriage” will someday become just “marriage.” 

“We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” he wrote. Pennsylvania was the last state in the Northeast that denied gay couples the right to marry.

And these are just the latest in an unstoppable streak of forward momentum for marriage equality. Earlier this month, Idaho’s gay marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional and Arkansas became the first Southern state to legalize same-sex unions.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard passionate arguments challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Depending on the court’s decision, this case could make it all the way to the Supreme Court, leading to a national ruling on gay marriage.

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Original article from TakePart

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