Okla. Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down; Decision Stayed

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 15, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Oklahoma federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban Tuesday, stating it violated the U.S. Constitution. But the judge also stayed his own ruling, pending a possible appeal.

Judge Terence C. Kern of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma -- seated in Tulsa -- blasted the state's anti-gay marriage amendment as an "irrational exclusion" of LGBT Oklahomans from government benefits, reports The New York Times.

While the ban is still in effect for the moment, gay marriage advocates have something to celebrate.

Okla. Marriage Amendment Not Rational: Judge

Oklahoma voters approved State Question No. 711 in 2004, a ballot initiative that amended the state's constitution to define marriage as only "the union of one man and one woman." The constitution was also changed to deny recognition of any same-sex marriages from outside the state.

In a federal case that has been in the courts for nearly 10 years, two lesbian couples in Oklahoma have been fighting the same-sex marriage ban. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- which defined marriage as only between a man and woman -- was unconstitutional, the couples' case had new life.

Judge Kern ruled that Oklahoma's marriage ban deprived gay and lesbians in the state of equal protection of the law. He found no rational link between barring gay marriage and any legitimate government interest.

This was due in part to the decisions in the California Proposition 8 case, setting precedent for evaluating reasons like "promoting child rearing" or "encouraging responsible procreation" as not rationally related to preventing same-sex couples from marrying.

Since Judge Kern could find no rational explanation for Oklahoma to discriminate against its LGBT couples who wished to marry, he ruled the gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

Appeal Expected Soon

Learning a lesson from the frenetic rush to courthouses in Utah after that state's gay marriage ban was struck down, causing some legal confusion, Judge Kern's order is on hold until the case has been appealed.

It is almost certain that Oklahoma will appeal the decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but it is uncertain when the case will be heard.

So for now, gay couples seeking to tie the knot in Oklahoma will have to wait just a bit longer.

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