A federal judge threw out Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban Monday, marking the 13th legal victory for gay marriage advocates since the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned part of a federal ban.
State officials earlier refused to defend Oregon’s voter-approved ban and said they wouldn’t appeal.
The National Organization for Marriage sought to intervene, but both U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Eugene and a federal appeals court rejected its attempts to argue in favor of the ban.
Many county clerks in the state began carrying out same-sex marriages almost immediately after Monday’s ruling, as jubilant couples rushed to tie the knot.
“It’s the final step to be truly a family,” said Patty Reagan, who waited in line in Portland to get a marriage license with her partner. “Everyone else takes for granted that they have this right.”
McShane joins judges in seven other states who have overturned same-sex marriage bans, though appeals are underway. Lower-court judges have repeatedly cited last year’s Supreme Court ruling when striking down bans.
Here’s a closer look at where things stand across the country:
How many states allow same-sex marriage?
Gay and lesbian couples can legally marry in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The two most recent states to make the unions legal were New Mexico and Hawaii, both of which did so in late 2013. Oregon’s ruling is not expected to be challenged, which would make it the 18th state where gay marriage is legal.
Is gay marriage getting close to becoming legal in other states?
In 11 states, federal or state judges recently have overturned same-sex marriage bans or ordered states to recognize out-of-state marriages. Appeals courts are reviewing those decisions. Ten are in the hands of federal appeals courts, and one is with a state appeals court.
Where have other pro-gay marriage rulings come down?
They’ve been all over the country. Federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The New Mexico Supreme Court declared the state ban unconstitutional in a ruling that is not being challenged.
Is Oregon’s attorney general the only one not defending a state ban?
No. Attorneys general in Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Nevada and Kentucky, all Democrats, have made the same decision. Virginia and Kentucky still appealed rulings. A county clerk who was sued in Virginia is fighting that ban, and Kentucky hired outside attorneys.
Do other states have pending lawsuits?
Yes. Of the states where same-sex marriage remains banned, lawsuits challenging those laws have been filed in all but three — Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
A ruling from a federal appeals court is expected soon, either from a panel in Denver reviewing rulings from Utah and Oklahoma or judges in Richmond, Va., reviewing Virginia’s case. Many legal observers say they expect the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case at some point, but they acknowledge it’s impossible to predict what the high court will do. The Supreme Court could also just wait and see how the nation’s appellate courts rule. It often waits until there is a conflict between appellate courts before taking a case.
About the Author