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First in line

Laurel Gregory and Shilpi Banerjee of Hillsboro were first in line at the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland Monday morning, eagerly anticipating a ruling that would allow them to marry. by: PAMPLIIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Hillsboro residents Laurel Gregory (center) and Shilpa Banerjee (right) talk with Commisisoner Deb Kafoury outside the Multnomah County Courthouse just before Judge Michael McShane issues his historic ruling Monday afternoon.

Gregory, 51, and Banerjee, 42, have been together nine years.

“We’re full of hope,” said Gregory, a life coach who is active in the Hillsboro chamber and on the advisory board of the Center for Gender Equity at Pacific University in Forest Grove. “It’s an exciting day.”

Banerjee, an associate professor in Pacific’s School of Audiology, is chief learning officer for Skafold, a home-based company she recently founded.

Gregory and Banerjee had a commitment ceremony five years ago in Wisconsin, with their families in attendance.

In Portland and Salem, couples lined up to be married Monday afternoon after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Oregon United for Marriage, the group gathering signatures on a potential ballot measure to overturn the ban, reserved the Melody Ballroom for nearly 12 hours Monday to host same-sex marriages.

Banerjee and Gregory officially wed Monday evening in the ballroom, with their daughter Luci, 16, in attendance. A number of other friends and relatives were able to join them, Gregory said Tuesday morning.

They traveled to Multnomah County to secure their license because Washington County required a three-day waiting period.

“We congratulate all the happy couples who can now walk down the aisle and finally say those two magical words: ‘I do,’” said the group’s spokesman, Peter Zuckerman.

One lawsuit, Rummell v. Kitzhaber, involved the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and Basic Rights Oregon. The other, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, was filed independently. They were combined into one case.

McShane issued his ruling after a federal appeals court rejected a last-minute bid by the National Organization for Marriage to delay his decision. The organization had asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide first its appeal of whether it could substitute for the state in defending the ban; McShane ruled last week that it could not.

McShane struck down the decade-old ban as a violation of the equal-protection guarantee under the 14th Amendment.

Monday’s ruling came about 11 years after Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. County officials issued about 3,000 licenses after commissioners said the county could allow same-sex marriage. That stopped in November 2004, when voters approved the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

— Pamplin Media Group reporters Jim Redden, Steve Law and Kevin Harden contributed to this story.



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