OREGON has become the latest US state to award all of its couples equal access to marriage rights, just days after Arkansas’ highest court called a halt to the issue of marriage licences to gay couples.
A federal judge in Oregon struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage yesterday, making it the 13th consecutive win for gay nuptials in the federal courts since the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year, in addition to state courts in New Jersey and New Mexico.
Although openly-gay, McShane is not the first gay federal judge to have deliver a ruling on marriage equality. Former Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down California Proposition 8, is also gay although he was not publicly open about it at the time.
The news from Oregon comes soon after the short window of opportunity for gay couples to marry in Arkansas, one of the US most conservative states, closed – but only after over 500 couples said “I do.”
Last week, the Star Observer reported how gay couples in Arkansas has started rushing to have their relationships officially recognised after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said there was “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying.
Piazza’s ruling struck down an amendment to the state’s constitution, added following a 2004 referendum, which defined marriage as being between: “one man and one woman.”
For one week, Arkansas became the 18th state to allow gay marriage with 540 couples taking advantage of the brief change in law.
However, last Friday the state’s highest court called a halt to the issue of marriage licences to gay couples with the matter now likely to be resolved in the US Supreme Court.
The last couple to wed were Hilda Jones and Kerin Hartsell – who had just six minutes to spare before the courthouse closed.
Jones and Hartsell, who come from the small town of Chidester, more than two hour’s drive from the courthouse in the state capital of Little Rock, said they got stuck in traffic trying to find where the ceremonies were taking place.
“I’m just ready to go home and live my life and be able to say that we’re legally married,” Jones told Associated Press.
The President of US LGBTI rights group the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin. said the Arkansas ban would eventually fall.
“We’re confident that when the Supreme Court hears this case, they’ll choose to be on the right side of history,” he said.
Meanwhile in the state of Idaho, which shares a border with Oregon in the north-west, US lawmakers have put on hold plans to start issuing marriage licences to gay couples.
A panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disappointed LGBTI campaigners who had been hoping to hold the first Idaho ceremonies last Friday morning in the capital Boise.
Idaho Governor C.L Otter had warned he would try and stop the weddings from taking place, citing a 2006 referendum result that, similar to Arkansas, saw gay marriage effectively banned.
However, the halt is only temporary, to give the state government time to build a legal defence of the current laws.