Oregon’s gay marriage ban was struck down today by U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, as spectators and same-sex couples on the courthouse steps cried tears of joy.
McShane found the ban unconstitutional because it violated the rights offered under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The ruling was made public at noon outside the federal courthouse at 8th and Ferry in Eugene. McShane allowed the state to begin granting same-sex marriage license immediately.
Just minutes after the ruling, couples started lining up down the street at the Lane County Courthouse. Some were holding flowers and all were smiling and laughing. The county clerk would return after lunch at 1 PM, and would start granting same-sex marriages.
One couple waiting to get married were Frederick Wilson and Joe Gerivel. “We’re excited and elated. We’ve been waiting 34 years to get married,” Wilson said. They were married before, in 2004, when Multnomah County briefly legalized same-sex marriage, before Oregon enacted the ban. He added, “We’ve enjoyed the support from University of Oregon students in the march toward equality.”
Penny Moore was waiting with her partner, Jesse Nordgaard. “It’s great to see what we consider as important is now considered important under the law,” Moore said.
Couples were striking up conversations with other couples, congratulating them on their decades-long relationships and excitedly talking about their impending marriages, as the clock crept closer to 1 PM, when the court would be open for business. Court employees and volunteers from Oregon United For Marriage walked up and down the growing line, helping with paperwork and making sure couples weren’t currently married to other people.
The first couple in line, Matt Friday, 63, and Bruce Carlson, 72, have been together for almost three decades. They’ve been waiting in line since 9:30 a.m., but Carlson adds, “We’ve actually been waiting in this line for 28 years.”
Once the office opened, there was a brief computer glitch, as the form was
only designed for one man and one woman. After programmers fixed it so that two men could be listed, Friday and Carlson were officially the first legally married same-sex couple in Lane County, as of 1:16 pm. The couples still in line erupted in elated cheers and clapping.
“Number one I am relieved and ecstatically happy that the man I love is married to me.” Carlson said directly after the marriage, “Thank you to all the people who supported marriage equality.” He and Friday held up their new marriage certificates with pride and joy.
As couples got their marriage licenses, everyone headed over to Davis Restaurant at Broadway and Olive to hold ceremonies with members of the clergy. The group ceremony was complete with cake from Sweet Life, weeping friends and relatives, and signs reading “FREE TO MARRY AT LAST.” One mother had come all the way from North Carolina to support her daughter.
“I will take you, my partner in life, my best friend in life, for as long as we both shall live,” read Friday and Carlson, the first couple, “Loving you faithfully in good times and bad, I give you y hand, my heart, my love, from this day forward, as long as we both shall live.”
The officiant said, “It is now with great pleasure that I pronounce you spouses for life. Please kiss each other!”
Follow Ian Campbell on Twitter @MrCampbell17