Same-sex couples in Oregon won the right to marry today, after U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled the state's 10-year-old ban violates citizens' constitutional rights.
"I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing less than our own families," McShane writes in his landmark ruling. "Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure."
The ruling means same-sex weddings can begin immediately. Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses within minutes of the ruling, while advocacy group Oregon United for Marriage announced it will hold wedding ceremonies at the Melody Ballroom this afternoon.
The National Organization for Marriage tried to pre-empt McShane's ruling by filing an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the higher court to stop Oregon from allowing same-sex couples to wed while the organization appeals. But the court rejected that appeal 45 minutes before McShane's ruling.
Oregon is the 30th state—counting the District of Columbia—where gay couples have the right to wed or where a judge has ruled that same-sex couples should have that right.
Today's ruling comes after four couples filed lawsuits against the state last year.
Two couples, Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, and Robert Deuhmig and William Griesar, filed suit in October challenging Measure 36, which amended Oregon's constitution in 2004 to explicitly ban gay marriage. The state constitution violated their federal constitutional rights, the couples said.
In December, two more couples, Paul Rummell and Benjamin West, and Lisa Chickadonz and Christine Tanner, filed a lawsuit of their own.
None of the defendants in the case—Oregon's Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Governor John Kitzhaber, State Registrar Jennifer Woodward or Multnomah County Assessor Randy Waldruff—defended the state's ban.
The National Organization for Marriage sought to intervene, but McShane last week denied the request and refused to stay implementation of his ruling.
McShane closes today's ruling on a poetic note.
"Where will all this lead?" he writes. "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."