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."