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Oklahoma: Judge rules state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional

Marriages won't take place immediately as ruling stayed, pending appeal

Federal judge Terence Kern has ruled Oklahoma's gay marriage ban unconstitutional but has stayed the ruling pending appeal. Credit: tulsaworld.com

A federal judge has ruled that Oklahoma's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional but stayed the ruling's execution pending final resolution in the courts.

In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, after which two lesbian couples — Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips — filed a complaint, arguing that Sections 2 and 3 of DOMA and Parts A and B of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment violated the US Constitution.

Judge Terence Kern says the constitutional amendment "violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution."

Kern adds, "Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights. The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationship for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities. Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification."

Kern ruled, in the case of Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, who were married in California, that the court doesn't have jurisdiction to decide the question of whether Oklahoma had to recognize their marriage. 

Kern also referred to the US Supreme Court's recent decision to stay the ruling of a federal judge who struck down Utah's gay marriage ban in deciding to stay his ruling.

"In accordance with the US Supreme Court’s issuance of a stay in a nearly identical case on appeal from the District Court of Utah to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court stays execution of this injunction pending the final disposition of any appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals," Kern wrote.

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin hailed the ruling.

“Judge Kern has come to the conclusion that so many have before him — that the fundamental equality of lesbian and gay couples is guaranteed by the United States Constitution," he says in a statement, adding, "equality is not just for the coasts anymore, and today’s news from Oklahoma shows that time has come for fairness and dignity to reach every American in all 50 states.”