Oregon became the 18th state to allow gay marriage after a federal judge on Monday struck down a voter-approved ban.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane held that the ban violates the Constitution by discriminating against gay couples. He ordered the state not to enforce it.
State officials had said they would be prepared to carry out same-sex marriages almost immediately. Couples lined up outside the clerk’s office in Portland ahead of the decision.
Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom, together for 10 years, were among the couples who arrived early to get in line.
“We always knew we wanted to spend our whole life together,” Brown told The Associated Press. “This opportunity has come, it feels right, everything has fallen into place.”
The ban was approved by Oregon voters in 2004. The state attorney general, a Democrat, refused to defend the ban in court and said that she would not appeal.
The National Organization for Marriage had asked to defend the law on behalf of its members in Oregon, but the judge said no. A federal appeals court denied its request for an emergency stay.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. Judges in seven other states — Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas — have found gay-marriage bans to be unconstitutional, but those rulings are tied up in appeals.
Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
— Erin McClam
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published May 19 2014, 12:17 PM