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Oklahoma gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

Tim Farley January 14th, 2014

Same-sex couples throughout Oklahoma are celebrating following a federal judge’s ruling that the state’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern announced his decision Tuesday in Tulsa.

The ruling has been stayed pending appeal, which means same-sex marriages will not occur immediately in Oklahoma.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director and spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, called the 68-page written decision an “historic day for all of Oklahoma.”

“We have joined the national discussion that eventually will be decided in favor of equality,” he said. “From a legal standpoint, this means no government, whether at the local, state or federal level, [can] discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation. Any discrimination against someone based on sexual orientation is suspect and unconstitutional.”

Two couples filed their discrimination lawsuit against the state in November 2004. The couples had sued for the right to marry and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction recognized in Oklahoma.

The lawsuit was filed soon after voters in 2004 approved a ban on same-sex marriages. Oklahoma was one of 11 states to pass the ban that year.

Scott Hamilton, executive director of the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center in Oklahoma City, called the judge’s ruling a “major, major milestone.”

“Kids 25 years from now will be reading about this in their history classes and it will have just as big an impact as in 1967 when the Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage was constitutional,” he said. “While we won’t be able to get marriage licenses tomorrow it moves us forward and we are confident it will stand on appeal.”

However, conservatives Republicans like U.S. Rep. James Lankford and Gov. Mary Fallin were not as excited about the landmark judicial decision.

“This is why the American people are so frustrated with government and government officials; the people speak clearly but elected officials and judges ignore them,” he said in a prepared statement.

Lankford was referring to the 2004 constitutional amendment Oklahoma voters approved that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Fallin said in her prepared statement she is “disappointed” in the judge’s decision.

“I am troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government,” she said. “I support the right of Oklahoma’s voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters.”

Kristin Davis, president of Woven, a national online resource for gays and lesbians that's based in Oklahoma City, praised the judge’s decision.

“As president of Woven, I’m thrilled that LGBT couples in Oklahoma will soon be able to enjoy the benefits of legalized marriage that they have long deserved. The judge’s decision is wonderful news for Oklahoma and will demonstrate to the rest of the country that it is time for all Americans to be treated equally,” she said in an emailed statement.


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01.16.2014 at 06:41 Reply

There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to marry any and all consenting adults. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality "just for some" is not equality. Let's stand up for EVERY ADULT'S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!