The Edmond Sun

January 14, 2014

U.S. District judge rules Oklahoma gay marriage law unconstitutional

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Oklahoma’s prohibition on gay marriage is unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern of Tulsa ruled today regarding Oklahoma’s law of marriage only between a man and a woman. A door has opened for Oklahoma’s gay couples who want the freedom of a same-sex marriage to be possible in their home state.

Although the door has opened for Oklahoma’s gay couples to marry, Kern’s ruling awaits appeal.

“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,” said  Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

“With last year’s historic victories at the Supreme Court guiding the way, it is clear that we are on a path to full and equal citizenship for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

According to Griffin’s press release, two plaintiff couples, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, filed their case, Bishop v. Oklahoma, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in November 2004. Lead counsel in the case are Don Holladay and James Warner of the Oklahoma City law firm Holladay & Chilton PLLC.

In his decision, Kern wrote the marriage ban is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.” This decision comes just one month after the state of Utah came to the same conclusion.

Oklahoma is one of 30 states with laws or restrictions banning same sex marriage.

“The American people are frustrated with judges because when the people speak, judges ignore them,” Congressman James Lankford stated on Facebook. “Oklahoma overwhelmingly voted to only recognize marriage between one man and one woman. The definition of marriage is clearly a state issue in the Constitution. The Federal decision in DOMA did not federalize marriage, it left it to the states. Now, a judge has decided to ignore the people and the Supreme Court.

Local attorney Lydia Lee said she supports same sex marriage, believing it is a basic human right.

“So I would support the decision,” Lee said. “And I think it sets a good, strong legal precedence for the state of Oklahoma.”

Oklahomans voted to ban same sex marriage in 2004 by adding to the state’s constitution that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. The ballot passed by a margin of 75 percent.

“The people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue,” Gov. Mary Fallin said today. “I support the right of Oklahoma’s voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters. I am disappointed in the judge’s ruling and troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government.”