PORTLAND, Ore. – Hundreds of jubilant couples rushed to get married in Oregon shortly after noon Monday, when a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Within minutes of Judge Michael McShane’s ruling, county clerks across the state started issuing marriage licenses.
“It’s amazing, all the community support!” said Dawn Jones, 42, right after she and Caroline Redstone, 38, were married at Melody Ballroom. The two women have been together for five years, have lived as domestic partners for four, and are expecting a baby this year. “We are part of history.”
In Portland, some couples lined up for their licenses at the Multnomah County building more than four hours before McShane released his opinion. The county issued more than 70 licenses Monday afternoon, according to Oregon United for Marriage.
Kelly and Patty Reagan of Washington County took the day off to get married, waiting with their kids 11-year-old Kaelan and 7-year-old Sophia at the county building since 7:30 in the morning. The couple has been together for nearly 8 years.
“It’s important for our kids to be part of this,” Kelly Reagan said. “It’s the final validation for them; this is the official stamp.”
Added Patty Reagan: “It’s the final step to be truly a family. Everyone else takes for granted that they have this right.”
McShane’s opinion came a decade after voters amended the Oregon Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Four same-sex couples challenged the ban last year. In February, state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she would not defend the ban in court, citing last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Not everyone celebrated the ruling. The Oregon Catholic Conference issued a statement saying “authentic marriage remains what it has always and only been according to God’s design: the loving union between one man and one woman for the mutual benefit of the two who have become one flesh and any children born of their union.”
In Portland, Jeana Frazzini, executive director for Basic Rights Oregon, simply told the crowd gathered at the group’s headquarters: “We won!”
The tightly packed room of gay and lesbian couples and their supporters filled with cheers, fist pumps, and hugs.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Chris Tanner, embraced her partner and wiped away tears as the decision was announced.
“I’m speechless,” she told the crowd. “I’ve anticipated this moment for at least 10 years. So I’m thrilled.”
McShane’s opinion was then read aloud to the audience by lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Misha Isaak.
“It’s a surreal, exciting moment, and not just for Oregon but for our nation,” said Ben West, while leaning on the shoulder of his long-time partner Paul Rummell. The two men, who were also plaintiffs in the case, and their 8-year-old son Jay then went to the county office to get their marriage license. They were married later that day.