On May 19, 2014, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane repealed the ban on same-sex marriage in Oregon. The judge overturned the 2004 gay marriage ban, stating it discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation which violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Before the ruling, the National Organization for Marriage attempted to block Judge McShanes’ anticipated decision. The group issued an emergency stay request to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but it was denied.
After the judge’s decision was announced, couples whose marriages were not acknowledged by the state became legally recognized. Although Judge McShane’s ruling can potentially be overturned by a Supreme Court decision, his supporters are confident that the ruling will not be overturned.
The day after Judge McShane’s decision, U.S. Federal Judge John E. Jones III repealed the gay marriage ban in Pennsylvania. Before the ban was repealed, the 1996 Pennsylvania state law had defined marriage as union between a man and a woman.
In his written memorandum opinion for the ruling, Judge Jones expressed his belief that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.
After Judge Jones’ decision, the people of Pennsylvania can legally marry the person they love, regardless of their sex.
Polls indicate that support for gay marriage has increased substantially since the Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996. Although many parts of DOMA are considered unconstitutional, it was only partially repealed in 2013 with the majority of it still standing as federal law.
Judge McShane and Judge Jones’ rulings were historical victories for equal rights activists in Oregon and Pennsylvania, but the fight to make same-sex marriage legal is an ongoing battle. As support for gay marriage grows, it is likely more states will follow suite and push the agenda for marriage equality.