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Oklahoma ruling shows U.S. shift toward same-sex marriage

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

James Gibbard, Tulsa World (AP)
Plaintiffs Gay Phillips, left, her partner Sue Barton, and Mary Bishop and her partner Sharon Baldwin have a champagne toast during a celebration at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 in Tulsa, Okla., after a federal judge struck down Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban.

TULSA, Oklahoma — For the second time in a month, a federal judge has set aside a deeply conservative U.S. state’s limits on same-sex marriage, this time in Oklahoma.

Like the federal judge who reversed Utah’s gay marriage ban in December, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern on Tuesday determined that Oklahoma’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed,” Kern wrote. “It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions.”

Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is the third to be struck down by a federal judge, after California and Utah. State courts also ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in New Mexico in December and New Jersey in October.

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at the national civil rights organization Lambda Legal, said momentum has been i ncreasing as litigators see that gay rights groups are winning same-sex marriage cases. She said there are currently 43 gay marriage lawsuits in courts, and a new one is brought almost every week.

Not including Utah and Oklahoma, 27 states still have constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage. Four more – Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming – do not permit it through state laws.

For 17 days, Utah was the 18th state to allow gay couples to wed, after the surprise ruling in December. Hundreds of couples got married before the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to the weddings earlier this month while a lower court considers the issue.

The fate of gay marriage in Utah now rests in the hands of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals – the same circuit as Oklahoma, where state and local officials are working on an appeal of Tuesday’s ruling.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the Supreme Court had left it to the states to define marriage and that Kern’s ruling was “troubling.” He said it would likely take another Supreme Court decision to resolve the matter.

The Oklahoma ruling came in a lawsuit filed nearly a decade ago, by two same-sex couples.

“There’s so much emotion, I’m kind of crying right now,” said Mary Bishop, who hopes to marry partner Sharon Baldwin. “It’s overwhelming to think that we finally won.”

Taylor, with Lambda Legal, said she wasn’t sure why the judge’s ruling came now, though she noted that his ruling made several references to the Utah case.

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25 more reader comments:

  1. Ooooo. Sally Kern’s head just popped.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:40pm
  2. Dropping like flies

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:44pm
  3. life, liberty, and justice for all……

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:45pm
  4. Now if we would help “shift” happen in the rest of the world. Please and thank you. We are being killed in the rest of the world!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:45pm
  5. sad but true :(

    Replied on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:29pm
  6. Let Nebraska be as soon as possible!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:56pm
  7. Let Indiana move out of the ’60′s

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:57pm
  8. The OK AG has it right. SCOTUS did leave it up to states to define marriage.

    Reading through the Federal judge’s opinion in the OK case it is apparent that the judge also realized this and took a good hard look at the public policy of the state in excluding gay Marriage.

    What is very interesting is that it appears that the attempt to ban the practice is actually being used to legalize. States that simply have no law banning the practice appear to be in a better legal position. It also looks like the adoption of civil unions by a state is actually a direct path to legalizing same sex marriage because by making civil unions legal the state has shown a public policy goal of supporting gay unions in a separate but equal fashion. Which is unconstitutional :)

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:01pm
  9. But the problem with leaving it up to the states was a cop out period. The us constitution which they are elected to defend not state states that even their ruling was wrong and against it.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:20pm
  10. Yes and no. Even heterosexual couplings do not have a right to marry anyone they want. States have a legitimate public policy issue in limiting ALL marriages. For example most states require both people to be above age 18 while some offer a parental exception for as low as 16. All states have a ban on incestous marriages though the degree of blood relation allowed is different in some states. Up until very recently a same sex couple was not treated as a suspect class and as such a different level of scrutiny is used. The sodomy laws in TX were overturned because they were specifically designed only to illegalize homosexual sex. Heterosexual couples were not prosecuted for committing the same consensual acts that homosexual couples were. That is why it was overturned by SCOTUS, the law treated people differently. With marriage the case can be made that gays are not barred from marriage but are instead subject to the same restrictions as opposite gender couples are (a straight man can not marry a straight man). Whether that argument will fly in front of SCOTUS will be a factor in how SCOTUS rules. Laws that are discriminatory or otherwise treat people in an unequal fashion are not automatically unconstitutional if a legitimate public policy issue can be shown as the basis for the unequal treatment.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:35pm
  11. And big ol’ Texas!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:02pm
  12. yah!! :) :)

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:12pm
  13. Bigots and haters, it’s only a matter of time and nothing that you can do……

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:15pm
  14. Oklahoma??? I NEVER thought that in my lifetime i would see this happen…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:23pm
  15. Beautiful <3

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:27pm
  16. Utah and now Oklahoma. Much Love to the couples.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:45pm
  17. I’m th SOUTH? I thought I’d die before I ever saw th Bible belt accept same sex marriage. I moved from there bc of it

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:49pm
  18. Its about time, gratz to Oklahoma though, hope many more states will follow

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:20pm
  19. Hell yea, I’ll drink to that!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:22pm
  20. Still mind blown on this one. Wow. They beat Montana too!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:27pm
  21. Congratulations to Oklahoma LGBTQ! We will win this in the end!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:45pm
  22. We all already know that. It’s the dimwitted right that can’t accept the plain truth right in front of their faces.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 6:29pm
  23. Stephen- while that may be true, I believe that te arguments made during the DOMA trial are very similar here- legal rights guaranteed to heterosexual couples were denied to same-sex couples

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 6:38pm
  24. AMEN

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 7:51pm
  25. We need a state in the DEEP South to be the next! OK isn’t really a southern state by ppl who are southern.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:04pm