Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oregon's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Is Invalidated

In Geiger v. Kitzhaber, (D OR, May 19, 2014), an Oregon federal district court held that Oregon's constitutional and statutory provisions that limit civil marriage to "one man and one woman" discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. Judge McShane concluded his opinion with these observations:
I am aware that a large number of Oregonians, perhaps even a majority, have religious or moral objections to expanding the definition of civil marriage.... Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called "smear the queer" and it was played with great zeal and without a moment's thought to today' s political correctness. On a darker level, that same worldview led to an environment of cruelty, violence, and self-loathing.... Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today' s generation when my son looks dismissively at the sweater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, says "dad ... that is so gay." 
.... It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading "God Hates Fags" make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides. At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities. 
.... 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. 
.... 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.
ACLU of Oregon issued a press release announcing the decision. According to the Los Angeles Times, marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in Multnomah County, home to Portland, as soon as the decision was handed down. In February, the state attorney general said she would not defend the ban in court.