EUGENE, Ore. -- A federal judge handed down a significant ruling Wednesday when he said a national group cannot step in to defend Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane denied the National Organization for Marriage's request to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oregon’s gay marriage ban after the state’s attorney general refused to defend the public in the case.
The federal lawsuit playing itself out in Eugene challenges Oregon’s 2004 constitutional amendment, that defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, as a violation of a citizen’s right to equal protection. Over a million Oregon residents voted to pass the law.
In February, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she would not defend the state against the federal suit, saying that the state’s ban was indefensible.
Wednesday’s decision paves the way for a ruling in the case, which could come at any time.
After a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, state bans on same-sex marriage have been toppled by Federal judges in half a dozen states, though many are still mired in legal challenges.
McShane’s move comes just a day after a federal judge in Idaho issued an injunction blocking the enforcement of that state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In Oregon’s case, the national group argued it should be allowed to intervene on behalf of its members in the state. They included a county clerk, the owner of a wedding business and a voter who cast a ballot in favor of the ban in 2004.
McShane did not agree.
The National Organization for Marriage said it may appeal Wednesday’s decision to the 9th Circuit Court and ask for a stay, which would stop the case before Judge McShane rules on gay marriage in Oregon.
The Associated Press, Pat Dooris and Cornelius Swart contributed to this report