Oklahoma Ban on Same-Sex Marriages Ruled Unconstitutional

Same-Sex Marriages Ruled Unconstitutional

In a string of legal victories for gay rights activists, a federal judge ruled on January 14 that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the rights guaranteed by the federal Constitution. Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa, said that the ban was based on moral disapproval and did not take into consideration the interest of the state in encouraging heterosexual marriages or the wellbeing of children.

“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 Kern, while deciding a case that had been languishing for nine years.

While gay and lesbians couples have been jubilating over the judgment, the decision will not take effect immediately and in all probability, the state will table an appeal soon.

“We are disappointed in the ruling. We will need to review the decision and talk with our client about appeal options,” said Tim Harris, District Attorney of Tulsa County, who represented the Tulsa County clerk, a defendant since his office issues marriage licenses in the state.

Kern’s ruling followed another that was made by a federal judge in Utah, less than a month ago. More than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples got married within a week following the judgment in Utah before the state acquired a temporary stay from the Supreme Court. With hundreds of marriages in limbo at the moment, the appeal by Utah is on an expedited schedule with written arguments due late February. It is not clear whether Oklahoma would make an appeal in tandem or on a slower schedule. In the meanwhile, despite the ruling being the same in Oklahoma, gay rights activists will not be privy to a similar window of marriage opportunity.

In a statement offered by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington on January 14, during the hearing of the case, Kern found that his court did not have jurisdiction to decide whether gay and lesbian couples can demand the state to acknowledge their married status. However, he ruled in favour of same-sex marriages because the United States Constitution guarantees fundamental equality to gay and lesbian couples.

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