Federal judge strikes down Oklahoma’s ‘irrational’ marriage equality ban

By Arturo Garcia
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 18:37 EDT
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A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that an amendment to Oklahoma’s state constitution banning marriage equality is unconstitutional, though the ruling will not take effect immediately.

The New York Times reported that U.S. District Court Judge Terence C. Kern wrote in his ruling that Question 711 was “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.” The bill was approved by 76 percent of voters in November 2004.

Ryan Kiesel, who leads the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Oklahoma chapter, celebrated the ruling in a statement released Tuesday evening.

“We’re thrilled that the court has struck down this discriminatory law,” Kiesel said. “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.”

However, Kern also issued a stay on his decision, pending a state appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. The 10th Circuit Court is hearing a similar appeal filed by the state of Utah, where another District Court Judge, Robert J. Shelby, struck down its own same-sex marriage ban last month.

The lawsuit challenging Question 711 was filed by two same-sex couples, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, not long after it passed at the polls. Baldwin and Bishop sought the right to marry, while Barton and Phillips argued that their marriage, recognized in California at the time, should also be recognized in Oklahoma.

In October 2013, a gay couple got around the ban when their marriage was recognized by the the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Court, which ruled that the state law would not be recognized in Native American territory.

[Image: "Happy Same Sex Newlyweds Kissing In The Woods" via Shutterstock]

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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