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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oregon gay marriage legal again after banned by Constitutional Amendment

PHOTO: local newspaper coverage of a decision to approve same-sex marriage by a gay Federal U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in a Eugene, Oregon courtroom. The Judge ruled that an Oregon State Constitutional Amendment, which was passed by voters in 2004 as part of a Republican campaign to reelect President Bush and to also redefine marriage in Oregon as between a man and a woman only, was unconstitutional under the Federal U.S. U.S. Constitution that overrules any State Constitutional Amendment. (Clockwise, from the top left: "Same-sex marriage comes to Oregon," Portland, Oregon Oregonian, Tue. May 20, 2014, p. A1 posted online May 19 as "Oregon gay marriage ban struck down by federal judge; same-sex marriages begin" (See for Oregonian's complete coverage), Jonathan J. Cooper and Brady McCombs, Associated Press and Gazette-Times staff reports, "Benton (County, Oregon) prepares for same-sex marriages," Corvallis, Oregon Gazette-Times, Tue. May 20, 2014, p. A1, Tori Hittner, "Oregon's gay marriage ban overturned, 7 same-sex couples in county apply Monday as community celebrates, readies for interested couples to apply for marriage certificates" Oregon State University The Daily Barometer, Tue. May 20, 2014, p. 1 and Editorial Board, "Marriage for all, all for marriage," Oregon State University 'The Daily Barometer,' Tue. May 20, 2014, p. 7) See previous post Oregon same-sex marriage vote and Pope resigns hits front page (2/21/13)

UPDATE 5/23/14: Read legal analysis by the gay marriage legal expert, law Professor Art Leonard, "Federal Court Enjoins Oregon from Banning or Refusing to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages," posted May 19, 2014, who says, "Finding that the state has no rational basis for refusing to allow same-sex couples to marry or for refusing to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane issued a permanent injunction on May 19 barring the operation of the state’s marriage amendment and its statutory ban on same-sex marriage."

UPDATE (6/4/14): a longtime Supreme Court reporter summarized the SCOTUS decision that let Oregon same-sex marriages continue -- Lyle Denniston, "Court won’t block Oregon same-sex marriages," sponsored by Bloomberg Law, posted Jun. 4, 2014

Photo of story about gay women on page 7 of Jan. 9, 1976 Corvallis Gazette-Times.

PHOTO: Jan. 9, 1976 feature article by Anne Wood, "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,'" on p. 7-8 of Corvallis Gazette-Times. One of the women profiled in the article came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper and she was active in early gay women's groups at Oregon State University. This article generated numerous angry letters to the editor, including some that threatened to cancel their newspaper subscription. (See previous post Gay 1976 newspaper controversy (5/3/06) and Jo Becker's gay marriage history mentions 1972 Baker case once (5/3/14) for more on the gay marriage pioneer, Jack Baker and links to my previous posts)

PHOTO: The local CBS Network affiliate KVAL TV Chanel 13 Eugene, Oregon reporter Chris Liedle stands outside the Eugene Federal Courthouse and interviews Stephanie and Amy about their reaction the pro-gay marriage decision that was made just after Noon Pacific Time when the decision was handed out by the Judge. They were elated that the state would now recognize their 45-year marriage, especially after having had Oregon briefly recognize same-sex marriages in 2004 until the fall elections when voters barely passed an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution, which had been put on the ballot as a political trick and a strategy by Republicans to help get President Bush reelected.

PHOTO: The Oregon Lewis and Clark Law Professor Jim Oleske is interviewed about his knowledge of same-sex marriage law in Oregon just 6-hours before the Oregon Judge decides on gay marriage by TV news anchor Natalie Marnie from 6:37AM to 6:41 AM, May 19, 2014 on a major Portland, Oregon ABC affiliate KATU TV Channel 2 in Portland, Oregon. This anchor is part of a station owned by a devout Catholic family that has donated to anti-gay marriage politicians and political campaigns in the past, therefore it is significant that they spent five minutes during the prime going-to-work time timeslot of their morning newscast because they never give that much time to any news story unless it is some major breaking news, weather or traffic disaster that might affect commuters. Likewise, the next morning at the same time, five more minutes were spent on the story.

Oregon has reputation for being liberal (although this is only true for the major cities that represent only about 50 percent of the voters) and as a small state, its citizens are used to being overlooked by what locals call "the back East media," which is why it was no surprise that both national new media reporters and legal scholars, who specialize in reporting on gay marriage law, largely ignored the recent pro-gay marriage decision, even given that the decision was made by a gay judge in Eugene, Oregon.

Even the liberal MSNBC lesbian anchor Rachel Maddow ignored it and spent the first part of her show talking about an Oregon millionaire, who invented the plethysmograph to measure erectile dysfunction, but Maddow did mention the Oregon gay marriage story at the end of her broadcast, despite the fact that it was hours after the decision was made.

The next morning, I noticed a few more mentions on the national news, but it still seems to be a non-news event from the national perspective. This is amazing to watch after having seen all of the emotion and political maneuvering since I first started to support the gay marriage activism of the University of Minnesota Law Student Jack Backer in 1972 when he brought his gay marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a one sentence ruling that left it up to the State of Minnesota law. Baker and Michael McConnell were legally married under Minnesota law, which did not specify sex at the time in 1970, and they have remained legally married ever since because no court has ever ordered their legal marriage dissolved.

By a strange coincidence the following story also appeared in the local newspaper and also the college paper: Bennett Hall, "TV's Ellen plans OSU tweetfest Wednesday," Gazette-Time, May 20, 2014, p. A1