Federal Court in Oklahoma Rules in Favor of Marriage Equality

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

In the reddest of the Red States, Oklahoma, the U.S. District Court has struck down that state's discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, and ruled in favor of marriage equality. Oklahoma’s Ban on Gay Marriage Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules:

EqualA federal judge in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday that the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage violated the federal Constitution, the latest in a string of legal victories for gay rights and one that occurred in the heart of the Bible Belt.

The state’s ban on marriage by gay and lesbian couples is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit,” wrote Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in Tulsa, deciding a case that had languished for nine years. The amendment, he said, is based on “moral disapproval” and does not advance the state’s asserted interests in promoting heterosexual marriage or the welfare of children.

“We’re jubilant, we’re over the moon,” said one of the plaintiffs, Sharon Baldwin, 45, who has lived with her partner and co-plaintiff, Mary Bishop, 52, for 17 years.

The two both work as editors at The Tulsa World newspaper and had just arrived at work on Tuesday afternoon when the city editor told them of the decision.

“We’re taking the day off,” Ms. Baldwin said.

The decision will not take effect immediately, and an appeal is almost certain, leaving prospects uncertain for gay couples.

The ruling comes less than a month after a federal judge in Utah reached the same conclusion, declaring that state’s restrictive marriage amendment unconstitutional. Some 1,300 couples rushed to marry before Utah obtained a temporary stay from the United States Supreme Court, blocking further marriages while the issue is considered by a federal appeals court.

Gay rights advocates in Oklahoma will not enjoy a similar window of marriage opportunity. In view of the Utah ruling, Judge Kern, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, stayed his decision in anticipation of an appeal by Oklahoma to the same appeals court where the Utah case is being heard, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver.

With so many marriages in limbo, the Utah appeal is on an expedited schedule, with written arguments due by late February. It is unclear whether an appeal by Oklahoma would proceed in tandem or on a slower schedule.

Tuesday’s decision was only the third time that a federal court has acted to void a state constitutional amendment on marriage, following the Utah decision in December and a 2010 ruling in California that eventually overturned Proposition 8.

A copy of the Court's ruling is Here.

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