Oregon Marriage Ban Goes to Court Today, Without NOM's Defense

Oregon's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage will be challenged in federal court today in Eugene, without any legal representative arguing in its favor.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

April 23 2014 12:45 PM ET

Opening arguments in the legal challenge to Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage will go on as scheduled today at the Federal Courthouse in Eugene, after the judge slated to hear those arguments declined to delay the trial to allow the National Organization for Marriage to intervene in defense of the law. At today's hearing, there will be no attorney arguing in favor of keeping the law. 

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, one of nine openly gay jurists on the federal bench, will hear opening arguments beginning at 1:30 p.m. today in Geiger v. Kitzhaber, a combination of two similar lawsuits filed by a total of three same-sex couples. Two Portland attorneys filed a federal suit last October on behalf of a lesbian couple who have been together for more than 30 years, and in December the American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar suit on behalf of a gay couple and a lesbian widow. Because of the similarities in the legal arguments advanced by each case, they have been consolidated into one challenge.

Although Judge McShane did not delay the trial to allow NOM to intervene for the defense, he did agree to consider NOM's petition at a separate hearing, scheduled for May 14. If the judge determines that NOM has legal standing in the case, he will reschedule opening arguments with NOM's attorneys defending the existing statute, reports pro-LGBT coalition Oregon United for Marriage.

The antigay organization, based in Washington, D.C., filed a last-minute motion to intervene in the Oregon case Monday after it noticed that no entity had filed a legal defense of the state's voter-approved prohibition on same-sex marriage. Because Oregon's Democratic governor and attorney general refused to defend the law in court, NOM argued that the organization had a responsibility to step in and "protect the interests of our members who support true marriage, against a collusive lawsuit that has the state joining with the plaintiffs against the interests of our members, and the state's voters."

While NOM was scrambling to defend the existing, discriminatory law, hundreds of Oregonians gathered at pro-equality vigils organized in seven cities across the state last night. Despite the rain, citizens, politicians, faith leaders, and activists rallied to show that they believe every Oregonian deserves the freedom to marry. 

"It was incredibly powerful to see so many Oregonians believe in the right for loving and committed couples to get married," Karol Collymore, executive director of the Equity Foundation in Portland, tells The Advocate. "Even in the rain, we stand up for what is right and we stand up together. It was an honor to be a part of it."

Oregon United for Marriage organized and hosted vigils in Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford, Pendleton, Hood River, and Newport. 

See powerful photos from the Portland vigil below, starting with an image of Collymore addressing the crowd (below). 

Click through more more images from the Portland vigil for marriage equality.  >>>

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