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Oklahoma's Ban On Gay Marriage Ruled Unconstitutional

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Oklahoma's ban on same sex marriage is illegal, so say a federal court judge. U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern issued the ruling today. Kern is a justice in the Northern District of Oklahoma, based in Tulsa.

His ruling  (68 page download) does not immediately clear the way for same sex marriages in Oklahoma. The ruling is on hold pending appeal.

FROM THE RULING: The Court declares that Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by precluding same sex couples from receiving an Oklahoma marriage license. The Court permanently enjoins enforcement of Part A against same-sex couples seeking a marriage license. In accordance with the U.S. 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, see Herbert v. Kitchen, U.S. Supreme Court Order in Pending Case 13A687 (Jan. 6, 2014), the Court stays execution of this injunction pending the final disposition of any appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued the following 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.  With last year’s victories 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.”
 
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.    
 

The gay couples had sued for the right to marry and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction recognized in Oklahoma.

Kern ruled on a constitutional amendment approved by Oklahoma voters in 2004 that says marriage in the state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. He said it violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office did not immediately have a comment on the ruling.

Governor Mary Fallin released this statement today on U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern’s ruling that Oklahoma’s legal definition of marriage is unconstitutional:

GOVERNOR FALLIN: "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. 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."