The biggest news story in the state is a sleeping tiger. Any twitch or murmur about same-sex marriage sends reporters and pundits running like rabbits. Last Thursday, b!x, a popular blogger in town, posted a brief story under a self-explanatory headline: "Oregon Supreme Court Set To Rule On Same-Sex Marriage? So We Hear, Anyway." A rapid succession of postings from readers followed.

But alas, it was a false alarm.

In fact, the court has yet to announce a release date for the pending case in which same-sex couples challenged the state's ban against their marriages. The case was argued in January; it usually takes at least six months for the court to issue an opinion.

But on Monday afternoon, there was a real advancement in the national debate over same-sex marriages as a San Francisco-based judge released one of the most promising legal rulings to date. Last year, after the California Supreme Court struck down San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom's handing out of 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, they also ordered the circuit court there to consider whether the state could ban same-sex marriages.

In his opinion, judge Richard Kramer said "no": "Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so.

"The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts: separate but equal," the judge went on to write in his opinion.

While the ruling has no bearing on Oregon's case, California has long been at the forefront of the debate over same-sex marriage. In 2000, four years earlier than Oregon and 10 other states, voters there approved an initiative defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. It was this definition that the court's ruling punched a hole in on Monday. The case will now need to work its way back to the California Supreme Court.