Appeals Court Denies NOM’s Request For an Emergency Stay Blocking Oregon Marriage Ruling
BREAKING - Appeals court denies group's request for emergency stay blocking Oregon gay marriage ruling.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A national group that sought to defend Oregon's gay marriage ban is taking its case to a federal appeals court, just hours before a judge is expected to strike down the ban.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane says he'll rule on the voter-approved ban at noon.
Both sides in the lawsuit over the ban have asked that it be found unconstitutional. And gay couples are poised to tie the knot immediately if allowed by McShane's decision.
But on Monday morning, the National Organization for Marriage filed an emergency appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The group is asking for a stay of a ruling that prohibited it from defending the state's ban.
Four gay and lesbian couples brought the lawsuit, arguing Oregon's marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against same-sex couples.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
A federal judge was expected to make Oregon the latest state to allow gay marriage after state officials refused to defend its constitutional ban in court, and gay couples were poised to tie the knot right after the ruling.
Officials in Oregon's largest county, Multnomah, say they'll begin issuing marriage licenses immediately if U.S. District Judge Michael McShane's ruling allows it.
McShane hasn't signaled how he'll rule, but both sides in the case have asked that the voter-approved ban be found unconstitutional.
The judge last week denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law on behalf of its Oregon members.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. 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 and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
But opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics note most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most of those that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the will of the people.
Four gay and lesbian couples brought the Oregon cases, arguing the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against them and exclude them from a fundamental right to marriage.
In refusing to defend the ban, Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said there were no legal arguments that could support it in light of decisions last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. She sided with the couples, asking the judge to overturn the ban.
Gay rights groups previously said they've collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage in November. But they said they would discard the signatures and drop their campaign if the court rules in their favor by May 23.
The Supreme Court last year struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It determined the law improperly deprived gay couples of due process.
Oregon law has long prohibited same-sex marriage, and voters added the ban to the state constitution in 2004. The decision, approved by 57 percent of voters, came months after Multnomah County briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
About 3,000 gay couples were allowed to marry before a judge halted the practice. The Oregon Supreme Court later invalidated the marriages.