Judge Rules Okla. Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

| by Allison Geller

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that an Oklahoma law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, opening the door for legalized gay marriage.

"The Court holds that Oklahoma's constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern in his ruling, stating that the protection "is at the very heart of our legal system."

Judge Kern said the ruling wouldn’t be immediately enforced, allowing appeals before same-sex couples will be allowed to wed. But he took the state constitution to task with its violations of the U.S. Constitution, particularly “Part A” of the Oklahoma amendment which states that "marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman."

Kern said that "the Court's rationality review reveals Part A an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a government benefit,” designating arbitrarily  “between two groups of Oklahoma citizens -- same-sex couples desiring an Oklahoma marriage license and opposite-sex couples desiring (a) marriage license."

Same-sex couples celebrated the victory, including the two lesbian couples who originally brought the complaint to the court in 2004, the year the amendment was voted upon.

Susan Barton said she was “absolutely thrilled” after the long struggle. She already has a civil union and several marriage licenses from other places with her partner of 50 years, Gay Phillips.

"You can't stay in this for nine years and not have faith," Barton said. "... I feel like we are already married, (but) I want our state to recognize our marriage."

Another woman, Mary Bishop, called the win “overwhelming.” She hopes to soon be able to marry her partner, Sharon Baldwin.

“We've been together for more than 17 years — it's time. This is something that when I was young, I thought I'd never see in my lifetime,” Bishop said.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, however, said she was “disappointed” with the ruling.

"I support the right of Oklahoma's voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters," Fallin said. "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."

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement, “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… it is clear that we are on a path to full and equal citizenship for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.” 

Sources: CNN, ABC, HRC Blog