District judge says Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional
A United States District Judge has ruled Oklahoma's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.
Judge Terence Kern ruled Tuesday that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional but that does not mean marriages will occur immediately.
Kern, a Clinton, Okla. native, made the ruling that comes just a few weeks after similar bans were overturned in New Mexico and Utah.
"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. 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."
In 2004, voters approved an amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Gov. Mary Fallin released the following statement on the ruling:
"In 2004, the people of Oklahoma voted to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as 'the union of one man and one woman.' That amendment passed with 75 percent support. The people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue. 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."
Two couples Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, filed case against the state, Bishop v. Oklahoma, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in November 2004.
Scott J. Hamilton, Executive Director of the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center, central Oklahoma's LGBT education and advocacy organization, declared today a monumental day in Oklahoma history.
"It is simply unconstitutional to prohibit marriage between same-gender loving couples. We have long known that this is not a battle we could wage on the state level. Instead, we knew it would require a federal judge to determine with authority that the state cannot violate the constitutional rights of its citizens," Hamilton said in a release.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruit called the ruling "troubling"."As the Supreme Court recently noted in the Windsor case, it is up to the states to decide how to define marriage, not the federal government. There is a case involving the State of Utah currently pending before the 10th Circuit that is identical to the case in Tulsa. The issue most likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and the outcome will dictate whether Oklahoma's constitutional provision will be upheld." Pruitt said in a release. Oklahoma's 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin said the ruling was "disappointing" and a "federal overreach". Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said his organization was thrilled the court struck down the law.
"The heartland of America should be a place where loving and committed couples are able to obtain the legal protections and dignity afforded by marriage, and this decision brings us one step closer towards true equality."Kiesel said.