Judge: Group can’t defend state’s gay marriage ban

A news conference was held outside federal court in Eugene after US District Judge Michael McShane ruled a national group fighting to preserve traditional marriage in Oregon will not be allowed to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban, May 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A news conference was held outside federal court in Eugene after US District Judge Michael McShane ruled a national group fighting to preserve traditional marriage in Oregon will not be allowed to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban, May 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

EUGENE, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A national group fighting to preserve traditional marriage in Oregon will not be allowed to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban Wednesday.

US District Judge Michael McShane heard the National Organization for Marriage’s argument for about 45 minutes at the federal courthouse in Eugene. He issued his decision after a five-minute recess.

Having now heard both sides, McShane could opt to strike down the same-sex marriage ban — approved by Oregon voters in 2004 – and allow for the immediate issuing of marriage licenses to gay couples.

It is not clear when McShane will rule on the suit.

NOM Chairman John Eastman said his organization felt it important for their views to be heard following an April district court hearing in which lawyers for four gay and lesbian couples urged McShane to repeal 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,” Eastman said.

Eastman said NOM plans to appeal Wednesday’s ruling within 30 days.

McShane said Wednesday that because NOM is a national organization with little more than 100 Oregon members, he could not grant the group’s request.

“This is an Oregon case,” he said. “It will remain an Oregon case.”

McShane also said “he wasn’t prepared to substitute the executive branch for a third party.”

In March, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the ban “serves no rational purpose” and announced she would not be defending the constitutional stoppage, opening the door for NOM to request to be its representation.

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