U.S. District Judge Terence Kern today ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.
His ruling is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in the Sooner State.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin hailed 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.
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 ruling comes on the heels of a year-long string of electoral, judicial and legislative victories for marriage equality. In recent weeks both the New Mexico Supreme Court and a federal district judge in Utah have ruled in favor of marriage for lesbian and gay couples.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said momentum is on our side.
“This is a tremendous day for loving and committed same-sex couples and their families in Oklahoma, building on the momentum of eight other states that ended their restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples in 2013,” he said.
“The federal district judge has done the right thing by affirming that marriage is a fundamental freedom for all people, gay and non-gay – for all of us who believe in liberty and fairness. As the case makes its way up through the courts, we will continue to do the work of having conversations about why marriage matters and creating a climate for victory when the Supreme Court eventually takes the freedom to marry case that brings national resolution. The momentum for the freedom to marry will continue as we win more hearts and minds, working to bring the freedom to marry throughout the country.”
Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, a right-winger with a history of anti-gay statements, was furious with the ruling.
“The people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue,” Fallin said, pointing out that Oklahoma’s marriage-ban amendment passed in 2004 with 75% of the vote. “I support the right of Oklahoma’s voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters. I am disappointed in the judge’s ruling and troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government.”