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US judge strikes down Oregon gay marriage ban

PORTLAND, Oregon--A federal judge on Monday struck down a voter-approved ban on gay marriage in the northwestern state of Oregon, saying it is unconstitutional, marking the 13th consecutive legal victory for gay marriage advocates since last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned part of a federal ban.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane joined judges in seven other states who have struck down gay marriage bans this year, though appeals are underway and the issue is expected to settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. He said the ban unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and ordered Oregon not to enforce it. State officials earlier refused to defend the constitutional ban in court.

Jubilant couples rushed to tie the knot following Monday's ruling, including some who stood in line at the Portland county building for hours to get a marriage license.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. The court determined the law improperly deprived gay couples of due process. Many observers predicted the ruling would create a pathway for states to act, as polls showed a majority of Americans now support gay marriage. Indeed, lower-court judges have repeatedly cited that decision when striking down bans.

In addition to Oregon, federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. At least 17 other states have filed lawsuits asking judges to throw out state bans.

The two most recent states to make the unions legal were New Mexico and Hawaii, both of which did so in late 2013. Oregon's ruling is not expected to be challenged, which would make it the 18th state where gay marriage is legal.

Opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics note most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most of those that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the will of the people.

In Oregon, state officials have said they'd be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately, and couples lined up outside the county clerk's office in Portland in anticipation of the McShane's decision.

Four gay and lesbian couples brought the Oregon cases, arguing the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally discriminate against them and exclude them from a fundamental right to marriage.

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Deanna Geiger, left, and Janine Nelson, her partner of 32 years, react to news that they can get their Oregon marriage license, in Portland, Oregon on Monday, May 19, following a federal judge's ruling the ban of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

(AP)

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