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WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage Monday, finding that the law violated the constitutional right to equal protection. He ordered his ruling take effect immediately.
“Because Oregon’s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest, the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” McShane wrote in his decision.
McShane’s ruling marks the 13th consecutive win for marriage equality advocates since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act last year. That law defined marriage for federal purposes as being between one man and one woman.
McShane is one of just nine openly gay members of the federal judiciary, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
McShane’s conclusion was particularly stirring, with reflections on an anti-gay game played in his childhood and his own son’s homophobic remarks. From his opinion:
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 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 to 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.”
As the Oregonian reported in April, McShane and a former partner adopted a son, who had come from an abusive home. McShane is now helping raise the 13-year-old nephew of his current partner.
McShane ended his opinion on a hopeful note:
My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. 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.
Where will all this lead? 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.
Including Oregon, same-sex couples can now marry in 18 states, plus the District of Columbia.