Federal Judge Declares Oklahoma's Ban on Gay Marriage Unconstitutional


U.S. District Judge Terence Kern has ruled Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional but the ruling has been stayed pending appeal, HRC reports:

“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.”
Two plaintiff couples, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, filed their case, Bishop v. Oklahoma, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in November 2004.  Lead counsel in the case are Don Holladay and James Warner of the Oklahoma City law firm Holladay & Chilton PLLC.   

The NYT adds:

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.

Towleroad reported on the case in December, while Oklahoma was still stalling on the ruling, nine years after the lawsuit was first filed.

Towleroad's Sean Mandell wrote, back in August, that the case was revived after the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA:

A 2004 challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage has been in a holding pattern for over a year while the federal court in Tulsa waited for the outcome of several high profile gay marriage cases including Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor. The couples who first brought the suit, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, are challenging not only Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage but also a crucial part of DOMA not addressed in the Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling, the section that "allows states not to recognize gay marriages performed in other states."

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  1. Oklahoma bites the dust.

    Posted by: Bernard | Jan 14, 2014 5:15:24 PM

  2. Please tell me the judge is related to Sally Kern, please!

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Jan 14, 2014 5:20:18 PM

  3. Amazing that it took over 9 years to get this decision and yet, conservatives seems to get cases before the Supreme Court in what seems like only months.

    Posted by: Phoenix Justice | Jan 14, 2014 5:20:52 PM

  4. A certain governor is going to have an epic temper tantrum.

    Posted by: Steve | Jan 14, 2014 5:21:35 PM

  5. Isn't Oklahoma also in the 10th Circuit (like Utah)? Is that good or bad?

    Posted by: Mike E. | Jan 14, 2014 5:32:44 PM

  6. Yes, Utah is also in the 10th circuit. It's good because it could tumble the bans in all of the 10th circuit.

    Posted by: Joe | Jan 14, 2014 5:34:08 PM

  7. As a former resident of Tulsee Town [61st and Peoria], congrats to my dear friends back there. It won't be too long now. I'm sure, besides a certain governor, there's a certain fundamentalist bible college preacher who's spinning in his grave over this. He didn't live long enough to see the day, but from whatever his current vantage point [I'm going with Hell, but Pergatory would be a dead loss for him too], he's not a happy camper.

    Posted by: ben~andy | Jan 14, 2014 5:40:04 PM

  8. The State should have to pay monetary damages, with interest, in perpetuity. Reallocate Sally Kern's pension toward damages for affected plaintiffs. Hit them where it hurts most.

    Posted by: Sally Kern's Nuts In A Vice | Jan 14, 2014 5:46:34 PM

  9. There was a comment about the Arizona cases that mentioned they're going to be heard in the 10th [or making the point that AZ isn't in the 9th]. But AZ IS in the 9th [which they kinda hate], so is there something special about those AZ cases or was the person just wrong about it?

    Posted by: ben~andy | Jan 14, 2014 5:46:51 PM

  10. I hope Sally Kern craps herself.

    Posted by: FFS | Jan 14, 2014 5:55:47 PM

  11. Sally Kern is her married name. Her husband, Steve Kern is pastor of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in the OKC area. There slogan is "The end of your search for a friendly church".

    What a terrible place to stop. Probably through dismay, but still; try anyplace else. It could only be better than there.

    Posted by: ben~andy | Jan 14, 2014 6:01:35 PM

  12. Shock and awe is all I can say. I grew up in this hideous state filled with the most hostile Xianist fascists you can imagine. I was bullied tortured and often considered suicide as the only way out. My parents still live there, but it has been years since I have been back because the memories are just too painful for me. My parents are total liberals by the way and very nice people. I am telling you there will be blood on the streets before a legally binding gay marriage happens in Oklahoma.

    Posted by: KJPNYC | Jan 14, 2014 6:26:05 PM

  13. The Arizona case (Connolly, et al v. Brewer) was filed in the District of Arizona. The case will be heard by a federal judge assigned to the District of Arizona. The appeal (and there will be an appeal) will be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (three-judge panel with an option for en banc, or a full bench).

    There is no chance that the Arizona case would ever be transferred to another District court or Circuit. There's no perceived/reasonable prejudice shown by the judiciary.

    The 11th Circuit just ruled against a defendant that requested the entire Circuit be recused from his appeal due to a perceived bias caused by his guilty verdict 20 years ago in murdering an 11th Circuit judge and sending a bomb to a Circuit courthouse.

    Anyways. This case will never leave the Ninth Circuit.

    Posted by: BRIAN | Jan 14, 2014 6:43:40 PM

  14. Although there was a stay, and yes, just like Utah, it's not as if Oklahoma citizens support marriage equality, but momentum is on our side (obviously). Target Obama/Clinton appointees, file suits against a state's marriage ban, and watch the state bans get ruled unconstitutional. That's what we're seeing and we're going to keep seeing. This fight is just about over.

    Posted by: Francis | Jan 14, 2014 6:44:16 PM

  15. So how 'bout those (three) Cheyenne Arapaho couples who've gotten married? Should their marriages now be ecognized everywhere in the state of Oklahoma?


    Posted by: Lexis | Jan 14, 2014 6:52:04 PM

  16. The "sovereign nations" concept muddies the river if a state has to recognize marriages legal on native lands. Rather than being like another US state, a reservation is more like a different country, just one established by treaty with the US. It is vastly complicated law.

    Posted by: ben~andy | Jan 14, 2014 6:57:59 PM

  17. And when we say
    Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!
    We're only sayin'
    You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!
    Oklahoma O.K.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 14, 2014 7:00:25 PM

  18. yep, the wind sweeping down the plain sure is changing!

    Posted by: Zlick | Jan 14, 2014 7:08:07 PM

  19. The Judge's 68-page ruling is an excellent repetition, but in his own words, of what other courts have decided (as in Utah). However, the Judge also has pointed out that the Supreme Court's Windsor decision does NOT lead to the automatic conclusion that state cannot prohibit same-sex marriage. The Judge has candidly admitted that he has taken the Windsor decision to its next step to reach that result.

    The bottom line is that although the US Supreme Court may ultimately agree that states cannot prohibit same-sex marriage, there is enough wiggle-room in Justice Kennedy's Windsor decision to allow a contrary result. As before, it will come down to Justice Kennedy, and that will be at least a year (or more) away.

    Posted by: MiddleoftheRoader | Jan 14, 2014 7:09:56 PM

  20. We have to stand up and fight back to stop this egregious abuse of judicial power!
    Please click here to make an end-of-the-year donation to the National Organization for Marriage right away and help us defend marriage from radical judges seeking to overturn the will of We the People and to impose their radical social agenda on ordinary Americans!
    Pig head Brown

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 14, 2014 7:26:52 PM

  21. the more the various circuits are concluding that DOMA and Windsor are too narrow the more likely the case goes to the supremes, I find if very hard to conceive of a SCOTUS reversing rulings on all of these various cases, which are on various parts of the constitution and would have to be decided separately. My suspicion is that other than Scalia and his puppet, what'shisname, most would like to leave it at the appeals courts level and become law by accretion rather than the SCOTUS knocking the stuffings out of all holy roller types. by leaving gay rights to happen by the circuits, there would always be wriggle room to fundraise for other right wing causes and eventually declare homosexual rights not needed because like racism homophobia no longer exists.

    Posted by: steven | Jan 14, 2014 7:28:49 PM

  22. Brian, like desegregation? like sodomy? like miscegenation? Leaving decisions on "rights" to the public means we would still have slavery. Go back to your page on NOM.

    Posted by: steven | Jan 14, 2014 7:31:29 PM

  23. Brian must be out of his mind. What he needs that money for? To bribe the judge?

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 14, 2014 7:32:09 PM

  24. This is fantastic news. The dominoes continue to fall!

    Posted by: Howard B | Jan 14, 2014 7:32:26 PM

  25. @Steven, I think you are right up to a point. SCOTUS does not want to touch this so soon after Windsor and Prop 8, but if the Circuit Courts start issuing conflicting rulings then they will have to step in. My gut feeling is SCOTUS will not get involved again unless they have to.

    Posted by: Howard B | Jan 14, 2014 7:37:36 PM

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