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