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U.S. appeals court rules Okla. same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

Friday, July 18, 2014
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James Gibbard, Tulsa World (AP)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.

James Gibbard, Tulsa World (AP)
Oklahoma 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. On Friday, a federal appeals court upheld that ruling.

Fallin said she hoped the decision would be overturned and pledged to “fight back against our federal government when it seeks to ignore or change laws written and supported by Oklahomans.”

State Rep. Sally Kern, a longtime critic of gay marriage who drew national attention in 2008 when she said homosexuality posed a greater threat to the U.S. than terrorism, urged Fallin to be an example for other states.

“It’s time that we the people begin to stand up for morality and God’s standards,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City. “If our governor would be bold and take a stand for the 76 percent of the people in Oklahoma who voted … I think she would be a hero and I think she would set the stage for other states to say: ‘You know what? We’re not going to let these judges bully us around.’”

Supporters of gay marriage, meanwhile, quickly planned rallies Friday in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to celebrate.

“We’re living in a time now that’s a completely different Oklahoma than the one I was raised in,” said Troy Stevenson, 36, who recently returned to his home state head up The Equality Network.

In the Oklahoma ruling, Judge Carlos Lucero said the court has already found that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry that cannot be breached by the state’s concern with keeping the focus of marriage on the procreative potential of man-woman unions.

Oklahoma’s ban, he wrote, “denies a fundamental right to all same-sex couples who seek to marry or to have their marriages recognized regardless of their child-rearing ambitions.”

The Oklahoma and Utah decisions add momentum to a cause that has compiled a string of lower court victories. More than 20 courts have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates since the Supreme Court’s ruling last year striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. The rulings have come in 17 states, with Florida being the latest.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in the Utah case that will require more than 1,000 same-sex married couples to wait longer for state benefits.

Also Friday, Colorado’s state Supreme Court ordered Denver’s clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples while the state’s stricken ban is appealed.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and recent polls show a majority of Americans support it.

The decision is here.

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