Same-sex couples take vows as marriage ban lifted
Olivia Olivia | 5/21/2014, 12:20 p.m.
Same-sex couples raced to pick up marriage licenses and get married Monday after a federal judge struck down Oregon's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, saying it is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the 2004 ban unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and ordered the state not to enforce it. State officials earlier refused to defend the constitutional ban in court.
Portland's Melody Ballroom hosted marriage ceremonies throughout the day and into the evening.
LaKeesha Dumas and her wife O’Nesha Cochran-Dumas were the first African-American same-sex couple to take their vows on Monday. The newlyweds picked up their marriage license at the Multnomah County building and then headed over to the Melody Ballroom with their friends and family for a traditional jumping-the-broom ceremony
“Family is what you make off it,” the couple said, advising young LGBT people of color to “be true to yourself.”
Another gay marriage at the ballroom was for Cindy Joseph and B.G. Goldberg. The couple said they “waited 30 years for this day.”
PDX Pedicab offered free rides to couples going from the Multnomah Building to the Melody Ballroom, accepting only tips for the fare.
“I’ve been biking all day. I love this and feel honored to be doing this today,’ said Joe Ball, the PDX Pedicab driver.
Khalil Edwards and other members of Portland Black Pride and Communities of Color United for Marriage welcomed the couples as they entered the hall.
Paw Lumley and Phillip Hillaire of the Yakama and Lummi tribes were excited to recite their marriage vows before the press, friends and community members. They attempted to marry 10 years ago only to have their marriage overturned the same year.
They advised lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth to reach out to the elder gay and lesbian community for people to support them and work with them.
Rev. Chuck Currie, from the Center for Peace and Spirituality at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said he was honored to marry couples on this momentous day.
“When I grew up I remember some Southern Baptist churches didn’t ordain black ministers. I didn’t want to continue finding reasons to discriminate against others. I considered joining the United Methodist Church, but also didn’t because at the time they did not ordain LGBT members,” Currie said.
Tye and Willy Elliott met in North Carolina two years ago. They said it was love at first sight and they committed to each other last year with a civil union in Portland. However, they plan to get married later this year and appreciated the new freedom to do so.
Four gay and lesbian couples brought the Oregon ban on same-sex marriages to federal court in Eugene, arguing the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against them and exclude them from a fundamental right to marriage.
Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum refused to defend the ban, saying there are no legal arguments that could support it in light of decisions last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. She sided with the couples, asking the judge to overturn the ban, and says she won't appeal.
The judge denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the law on behalf of its Oregon members. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused the group's request for an emergency stay of that decision, allowing same-sex marriages to proceed.
Gay rights groups previously said they've collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage in November. But they said they would discard the signatures and drop their campaign if the court ruled in their favor.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It determined the law improperly deprived gay couples of due process.
Oregon law has long prohibited same-sex marriage, and voters added the ban to the state constitution in 2004. The decision, approved by 57 percent of voters, came months after Multnomah County briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
About 3,000 gay couples were allowed to marry before a judge halted the practice. The Oregon Supreme Court later invalidated the marriages.
--The Associated Press contributed to this story.