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.

More: National group wants to defend Ore. gay marriage ban

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.

More: AG won't defend Ore. gay marriage ban

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

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