Federal judge overturns Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage

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A federal district judge has ruled that Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

However, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern stayed his decision pending appeal.

In late December, a federal judge overturned Utah's anti-gay marriage ban without an immediate stay, allowing for same-sex couples to marry in the state until the Supreme Court brought the wedding march to a halt. Same-sex couples will not be getting married in Oklahoma immediately, because the state is likely to appeal the order.

Kern ruled in Bishop v. Oklahoma, a case brought by two same-sex couples — Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton. The couples want Oklahoma to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages and also to allow gay couples to marry in the state.

Voters amended the Oklahoma Constitution in 2004 to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Kern said the ban violates the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Responding to Kern's ruling, Chad Griffin at the Human Rights Campaign said, “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 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.”

At the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown used the court ruling as an opportunity to call for a federal constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

He stated, "The National Organization for Marriage renews its call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The decision by U.S District Court Judge Terence Kern in Oklahoma is the latest in a string of examples of the dangers posed to state marriage laws when the avenue of debate is the federal court system. We need firm legislative action to protect the rights of the states  and their citizens to make their own determinations regarding the definition of marriage without interference from federal appointees either in the courts or within the executive branch."