Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage struck down by U.S. judge

Compiled by Herb Scribner, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Tue, Jan. 14 5:50 p.m. MST

 In this Oct. 10, 2013 photo, Sharon Baldwin, left, and Mary Bishop speak at East Central University in Ada, Okla., as part of the ECU Gay-Straight Alliance's National Coming Out Day event. On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Senior Judge Terence Kern struck down on Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the ban is unconstitutional.

In this Oct. 10, 2013 photo, Sharon Baldwin, left, and Mary Bishop speak at East Central University in Ada, Okla., as part of the ECU Gay-Straight Alliance's National Coming Out Day event. On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Senior Judge Terence Kern struck down on Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the ban is unconstitutional.

(Eric Turner, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A U.S. district court judge in Oklahoma on Tuesday afternoon struck down the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, less than a month after a district court judge in Utah did the same to Utah’s constitutional amendment.

“The Court holds that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern wrote in the ruling.

Unlike Judge Robert Shelby in Utah, however, Judge Kern stayed his ruling, giving the state of Oklahoma an opportunity to appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal. As a result, there will be no same-sex marriages in Oklahoma for now.

BuzzFeed reported that Kern decided to issue the stay after the Supreme Court granted a stay in the recent case on Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. Same-sex marriage was allowed for 17 days in the Beehive State "before the U.S. Supreme Court put on the brakes last week pending the state's appeal," Deseret News reported.

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on Judge Shelby’s ruling, halting such marriages in Utah, as the matter is being considered on an expedited basis by the appeals court in Denver. Oklahoma is also part of the 10th Circuit – meaning that an appeal by Oklahoma might impact the way the appeals court handles the Utah case.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued a statement of support on the ruling.

“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,” Griffin said in the statement. “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.”

The Family Research Council released a statement critical of the decision. Council President Tony Perkins said the decision was serving Kern’s ideology and not the people of Oklahoma.

“He is substituting his own ideology for the three-quarters of Oklahomans who voted to preserve marriage in their constitution as it has always been defined,” he said.

Perkins referred to the current and forthcoming clash between advocates of same-sex marriage and the freedom of conscience by religions and business owners. He referred to a baker in Colorado threatened with the ability to continue his line if work if declining to make cakes for same-sex couples in contravention of his Christian beliefs.

"These consequences continue to draw more Americans' attention to the serious threat to free speech and religious liberty posed by the redefinition of marriage,” Perkins said.

“Rather than live-and-let-live, this court by redefining marriage will force people to violate the basic teachings of their faith, or lose their jobs."

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @hscribner

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1. Elms
OGDEN, UT,
Jan. 14, 2014

This is great news! And yet another state is dragged (albeit kicking and screaming) from 19th century bigotry into 21st century freedom and enlightenment. Gay people exist. Get over it and let them be happy.

2. KJB1
Eugene, OR,
Jan. 14, 2014

From the looks of things, there are two options:

1) America is filled with "activist" judges.

2) Banning same-sex marriage is just inherently unconstitutional.

Sadly, I already know what a lot of people here are going to believe...

3. truth in all its forms
henderson, NV,
Jan. 14, 2014

The decision by U.S. District Judge Terence Kern is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not take place immediately in Oklahoma. Why couldn't judge Shelby be that smart when he overthrew Utah's constitution?

4. Blue AZ Cougar
Chandler, AZ,
Jan. 14, 2014

@Elms
I respectfully disagree with your comment. Why is it that when someone has a different opinion on the issue, they're labeled a 'bigot'? Nobody is contending that gay people don't exist, or that they shouldn't be happy. But telling me that your happiness depends on me labeling your relationship something it is not seems a little weird to me. How come your happiness is so dependent on the social acceptance of your actions? Are you somehow precluded from having a relationship with someone of the same gender? Or living with them? Is it solely the monetary aspect of tax breaks that precludes you from being truly happy?

5. Avenue
Vernal, UT,
Jan. 14, 2014

Bad things like this are now happening across the country.