National group wants to defend Oregon's same-sex marriage ban in federal court

National group wants to defend Oregon's same-sex marriage ban in federal court »Play Video
Hundreds of gay marriage supporters gathered at Portland's Terry Schrunk Plaza Tuesday night. (KATU photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A ruling on Oregon’s case on same-sex marriage hits a snag after a late legal move forces the judge to change his plans. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is getting involved at the eleventh hour.

“I agree. It’s an eleventh hour filing but that’s because the attorney general, at the 10th hour, decided that she would walk over to the other side of the court room and start attacking the Oregon constitution that it is her duty to defend,” said John Eastman, NOM’s Chairman of the Board.

NOM filed a motion to intervene in the federal case late Monday night. On Tuesday, the judge set a hearing for it on May 14. The judge also said he won’t rule on the case until after that hearing, but he didn’t postpone a hearing already set for Wednesday on summary arguments.

“I think that’s an important development because it shows that the judge is concerned about the collusive nature of this suit that existed before we filed our motion to intervene,” Eastman said.

NOM is asking the judge to let them defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban since Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced in February she wouldn’t defend it.

"In many ways our intervening here is going to give the judge and the plaintiffs a more legal basis for getting a broad judgment if that's what the judge decides to do,” Eastman said.

“We are representing the interests of our own members who have specific interests for us to intervene in Oregon but because of threats of retaliation are concerned about having their names exposed.” said Eastman.

Those include a county clerk, providers of wedding services, and people who voted for Measure 36, the state's ban on same-sex marriage, in 2004.

Eastman tells KATU that NOM doesn’t think one federal judge should decide this case. If it’s going to be in the courts, he said an appellate judge should decide. Ultimately, NOM wants Oregon voters, not the courts, to decide the fate of the ban.
 
"Marriage has been about something much more than that. It's been about the unique procreative abilities to produce children, and society benefits from that institution,” Eastman explained.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Oregon United for Marriage held a series of rallies around the state to send in support for same-sex marriage. The NOM motion was announced at the rally held in Terry Shrunk Plaza in downtown Portland. Many people attending that rally thought the judge could still rule on the case on Wednesday. 

Anne Cook is one of the people who found out the ruling is now delayed. Cook wants nothing more than to become a mother-in-law to her daughter C’more’s partner, Kat. Cook called the development frustrating.

"That is about as smart as putting one ticket taker at Disneyland the day after Thanksgiving,” Cook said.

Eastman knows NOM’s move doesn't sit well with opponents, like Cook, but he's willing to let it play out.

NOM’s motion to intervene makes it possible for them to file appeals in the future. Eastman said NOM will appeal any decision from the judge that doesn't go their way. 

Wednesday’s hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in federal court in Eugene.