What a Week! Marriage Equality Wins in Oregon and Pennsylvania

Two amazing victories for marriage equality have already taken place this week, on opposite sides of the nation.

On Monday a U.S. District Court ruled on the side of the plaintiffs in two cases challenging Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage. Both cases were filed late last year in District Court for the District of Oregon. Just days prior to the ruling, the same judge rejected an attempt by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to intervene and defend the marriage ban.  (The judge said NOM hadn’t adequately made its case.)

In his ruling, the judge wrote, “Expanding the embrace of civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples will not burden any legitimate state interest… The state’s marriage laws unjustifiably treat same-gender couples differently than opposite-gender couples. The laws assess a couple’s fitness for civil marriage based on their sexual orientation: opposite-gender couples pass; same-gender couples do not. No legitimate state purpose justifies the preclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage.”

Following the ruling in Oregon, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling … affirms what a majority of Oregonians already knew: discrimination has no place in our society, much less the state constitution.  The plaintiffs and their tremendous attorneys Lake James Perriguey, Lea Ann Easton, Perkins Coie LLP, the ACLU of Oregon and the ACLU, should be incredibly proud of their historic victory.  Thanks to their willingness to fight and the decades of work done by groups like Basic Rights Oregon and countless others, America is now one giant step closer to full equality nationwide.”

We had barely caught our breath from cries of victory triumphant when yesterday, in Pennsylvania, another federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Like the decisions in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas and an increasing number of other states, the ruling was made on the grounds that it unconstitutionally discriminates against lesbians and gay men. The judge’s order directs Pennsylvania to allow same-gender couples to wed and to recognize valid out-of-state marriages.

The Pennsylvania case was filed on behalf of a widow and 11 couples seeking to marry in Pennsylvania or get legal recognition of their out-of-state marriages.

“This is yet another win in a long line of rulings finding that denying same-sex couples the protections and dignity of marriage is unconstitutional,” said Leslie Cooper, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Across the country, Americans are embracing the idea that same-sex couples and their families deserve to be treated the same as other families.”

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