PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) – A federal judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage on Monday, saying that it violated the U.S. Constitution, in a ruling that was greeted by cheers from gay rights activists.
The ruling came after Oregon’s attorney general announced in February that she would not defend a voter-approved 2004 amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman.
“There is no legitimate state interest that would justify the denial of the full and equal recognition, attendant rights, benefits, protections, privileges, obligations, responsibilities and immunities of marriage to same-gender couples,” U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said in his written ruling responding to a lawsuit by four same-sex couples.
Marriage rights have been extended to gay couples in 17 states and the District of Columbia in a trend that has gained momentum since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that legally married same-sex couples nationwide are eligible for federal benefits.
That decision, which struck down part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, has been cited by a number of federal judges in subsequent opinions overturning state bans on gay matrimony.