Oregon gay marriage ban gets day in court

EUGENE, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Lawyers for four gay and lesbian couples and the state of Oregon are urging a federal judge to strike down the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

“We’re all together in this and we’re representing the body of LGBT in the state of Oregon, so the more people we have on our side, the better,” said Paul Rummel, who is part of one of the couples that filed the suit against the state. “I think we have a strong case that Oregon’s current law is in direct conflict with U.S. constitutional law, which has a precedent.”

Judge Michael McShane heard arguments on the case Wednesday but did not say which way he was leaning. His questioning focused heavily on how he should apply precedents from higher courts.

The state attorney general has refused to defend the gay-marriage ban, so nobody supported it in court.

The couples’ attorney called Oregon’s current marriage law “a state imposed badge of inferiority and a stigma on same sex couples” in court.

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union and Basic Rights Oregon were also present in court to back their arguments.

McShane says he won’t rule on the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban until he decides on a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend it.

The group’s chairman, John Eastman, says the judge would benefit from hearing several arguments that weren’t raised in court because nobody was able to defend the ban.

“We have members in our organization that are residents of Oregon – a county clerk, wedding services providers [and] voters who actually voted for the marriage amendment in 2004, and we think that they have vested stakes in this case,” said Eastman.

McShane is expected to hear the group’s arguments on May 14.

If McShane rules to strike down the ban — as federal judges have now done in five states — same-sex marriage could begin immediately in Oregon.

Vigils in Portland and across Oregon were held Tuesday in support of gay marriage.

“Our family has a lot at stake. We’d like to be married in the state of Oregon and have legal protections for our son,” said Ben West, Rummel’s partner.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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