19 May 2014

Banning The Ban In The Beaver State

As a general rule, I guard against complacency.  Still, it's hard to greet one piece of news as if it's becoming almost routine.

Today, US District Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying that it's unconstitutional.  County clerks all over the Beaver State said they were ready to issue marriage licenses, and it didn't take long for Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom to form the line for marriage licenses at Multnomah County court.

Oregon becomes the eighth state in which a Federal judge struck down a same-sex marriage ban on Constitutional grounds during the past year.  Things have gotten so that Judge McShane's ruling can't be dismissed over the fact that he's openly gay:  Earlier this year, in Utah, a conservative Republican judge (Robert Shelby)  issued a similar ruling.  It has been appealed, as McShane's ruling is likely to be. 

But the fact that bans can be appealed by such disparate judges means, I believe, that we'll see similar developments in other states.  Common wisdom used to tell us that same-sex marriage would become legal because more and more legislators--even ones as far to the right as Dick Cheyney--realize they have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends and co-workers in the LGBT spectrum.  Such awareness has certainly helped, as well as a younger generation who's more willing to accept sexual and gender-expression diversity. However, it seems to me that any jurist worthy of the title--let alone a Constitutional scholar--realizes that there is simply no Constitutional basis for a ban on same-sex marriage.  At least, my readings of the document, for what they're worth, tell me as much.

It looks, though, like opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage are going to be busy in the Beaver State, as they have been in the Beehive State and other places in this country.