U.S. High Court Refuses to Halt Gay Marriages in Oregon

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt gay marriages in Oregon, rejecting calls from an interest group and giving advocates another legal victory as they push for same-sex wedding rights nationwide.

The rebuff of the National Organization for Marriage leaves Oregon as one of 19 states where gay couples can legally wed. Rulings that struck down bans in six other states are on hold.

Oregon began issuing licenses to gay couples on May 19, immediately after U.S. District Judge Michael McShane threw out the state’s ban and said his decision would take effect right away. A federal appeals court also declined to block the ruling.

NOM, as the interest group is known, got involved after state officials said they wouldn’t defend a 2004 Oregon constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a heterosexual union. McShane rejected NOM’s bid to intervene, leaving the ban undefended in court.

NOM asked the Supreme Court to block weddings until the San Francisco-based appeals court could consider the group’s bid to intervene and the marriage issue itself.

The gay-marriage movement has been on a legal roll in the year since the Supreme Court struck down part of a law that denied federal benefits to same-sex spouses. Judges around the country have used the reasoning from that 5-4 decision to invalidate same-sex marriage bans.

The Supreme Court itself slowed the drive in January, when it halted gay marriage in Utah. Unlike with Oregon, Utah is defending its gay-marriage ban and appealing a trial judge’s ruling that allowed weddings.

The Oregon case is National Organization for Marriage v. Geiger, 13A1173.

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