The Supreme Court has declined to halt a federal judge’s order that overturns a voter-passed marriage amendment in Oregon.
The Wednesday order means gay marriages can continue in Oregon while a traditional-values marriage group seeks to intervene in the case in appellate court.
The one-sentence order, which did not offer an explanation, came from the full Supreme Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had received the plea from the National Organization for Marriage, and, after collecting legal briefs on it this week, submitted it to the full court.
The case, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, involved gay plaintiffs suing to overturn Oregon’s voter-passed marriage amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
On May 19, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane struck down the law as unconstitutional. Unlike other federal judges, he declined to stay his ruling. Since Oregon’s elected officials supported the gay plaintiffs, there was no appeal, and gay marriages started that day.
National Organization for Marriage, representing an unidentified voter, wedding-service provider and county clerk, had been trying to join the case to defend the law. But it was blocked by Judge McShane and a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The traditional marriage group, which is appealing the 9th Circuit ruling, asked the Supreme Court to stay Judge McShane’s ruling on behalf of its three members and other Oregonians who voted for the marriage law.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenbaum had asked the Supreme Court not to accept the group’s request because “NOM has failed to meet any of the criteria it must establish to obtain a stay” of rulings it opposes.
Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, representing the gay plaintiffs, also had requested that the Supreme Court deny National Organization for Marriage’s petition, saying its intervention request was both untimely and unwarranted. The group lacks standing to appeal, and “there is no reasonable likelihood” the Supreme Court will overturn the lower court’s rulings, the ACLU brief said.
On Wednesday, ACLU leaders applauded the Supreme Court’s order.
“With marriages continuing in Oregon, we have 44 percent of the country living in a freedom-to-marry state: same-sex couples are now part of marriage in America today,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.
“We are confident that marriage equality in Oregon will help pave the way for marriage equality nationwide,” said David Fidanque, executive director of ACLU of Oregon.
Mr. Eastman, who is also director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Claremont Institute, said, National Organization for Marriage “will continue to press this case because we believe that the people of Oregon are entitled to a vigorous defense of marriage, and because it is in the public interest to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
“It’s important to recognize that the Supreme Court has not decided the merits of the underlying issue,” he added.