“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,” the judge decided. The ruling is on hold pending any appeal.
ABOVE: Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex couples marrying.Courtesy of Holladay and Chilton
WASHINGTON — Oklahoma’s ban on marriages between same-sex couples is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
“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.
The ruling will not go into effect immediately, Kern decided, issuing a stay of his decision based on the recent Supreme Court action granting a stay in “a nearly identical case” challenging Utah’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages.
The Oklahoma case, which was filed back in November 2004, is the longest pending marriage equality case in the country. The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 3, 2004, the day after voters there passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying.
The lawsuit had challenged both the federal government’s ban on recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages in the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as Oklahoma’s ban, but Kern — appointed to the bench by President Clinton in 1994 — found that the intervening Supreme Court ruling striking down that part of DOMA, Section 3, rendered that portion of the lawsuit moot.
As for the Oklahoma amendment, though, Kern found in favor of Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, who had attempted to get a marriage license from Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith and were denied. They then filed the lawsuit decided on Tuesday.
Kern found that a 1972 Supreme Court decision dismissing a similar claim by a Minnesota couple was no longer controlling precedent because of the changed legal landscape since then. He also noted that the Supreme Court’s decision this June striking down Section 3 of DOMA was focused on states’ rights — an argument made by Smith, as well as Utah officials, in their defenses of such amendments — but that such discussion in the Supreme Court opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy was always “subject to constitutional guarantees.” Finally, he found that the Oklahoma constitutional amendment passed in 2004 was “intentional discrimination” and there was no “legally sufficient justification” for that discrimination.
Noting the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to address the specific jurisprudence behind its treatment of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights over the past two decades, Kern took a gentle swipe at the court, writing, “There is no precise legal label for what has occurred in Supreme Court jurisprudence beginning with Romer in 1996 and culminating in Windsor in 2013, but this Court knows a rhetorical shift when it sees one.”
He then concluded:
Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights. The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities. Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification.
A second couple, Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, had married legally in California and challenged a second provision in the Oklahoma amendment that bars recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, as well as Section 2 of DOMA, which purports to allow states not to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages entered into in other jurisdictions. Kern ruled Tuesday that this second couple challenging lacked standing, or legal authority, to do so.
Section 2, Kern ruled “only possibly strengthened” Oklahoma’s decision not to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages entered into in other states, and that the couple’s injury primarily came from Oklahoma’s decision, not Section 2 of DOMA. Additionally, the “couple has not taken any steps to obtain recognition and has not shown that [Tulsa County Clerk] Smith is the proper official” from whom they would obtain such recognition.
Appeals from Oklahoma’s federal courts are heard by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which already is hearing the appeal of the Utah case. A 10th Circuit ruling in the Utah case striking down the Utah amendment on equal protection grounds, similar to the decisions made by Kern and the trial judge in the Utah case, would apply to all of the states in the circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. The specifics of any ruling, however, could change the way in which it would affect the other states.
The Alliance Defending Freedom — previously, the Alliance Defense Fund — is co-counsel with the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office in representing Smith in the case. The Oklahoma City law firm of Holladay and Chilton represents the plaintiff same-sex couples.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin praised the ruling in a statement, saying, “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.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement in response to Kern’s ruling:
“In 2004, the people of Oklahoma voted to amend the state’s constitution to define marriage as ‘the union of one man and one woman.’ That amendment passed with 75 percent support.
“The people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue. 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.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a statement as well, saying:
“It is a troubling decision. As the Supreme Court recently noted in the Windsor case, it is up to the states to decide how to define marriage, not the federal government. There is a case involving the State of Utah currently pending before the 10th Circuit that is identical to the case in Tulsa. The issue most likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and the outcome will dictate whether Oklahoma’s constitutional provision will be upheld.”
One of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Don Holladay, told BuzzFeed:
The Court’s decision today striking Oklahoma’s constitutional ban on same gender marriage is a significant victory for countless same-sex couples in committed relationships who have been denied the right to marry in Oklahoma because of this provision. The ruling stands for marriage equality, and the right of equal protection as a constitutional guarantee.
Tulsa County Clerk Smith did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Additional reporting by Hunter Schwarz.
This post was updated as additional information became available, with the final update at 12:30 a.m. Jan. 15.
Three key paragraphs from Judge Kern’s decision:
On the limits of reading the DOMA ruling as a “states’ rights” decision:
what if you injected brownie mix into your bloodstream like since your body temp is like 98 the brownies would cook over a few days and then you will have clumps in your arms and you just cut it open and eat the brownies i should be a scientist
“The first time I read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ I was sitting in 10th grade English class. But there is one image that stays with me. The description of crops going unharvested even as workers are eager and willing to pick the food. He writes:
The works of the roots of the vines, of the trees, must be destroyed to keep up the price, and this is the saddest, bitterest thing of all. Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people came for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges at twenty cents a dozen if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the time, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit—and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains.
And the smell of rot fills the country.
He wrote those words more than 70 years ago, yet the conditions he describes still ring true for 50 million Americans living in food insecure households today… . Hungry families do not have enough food… [but] not because of scarcity. Every year 40% of food produced goes uneaten. That’s 20 pounds of food per person per day. And that is the twisted irony of hunger in America today. What Steinbeck called that crime that goes beyond denunciation, landfills brimming with rotting food while 15% of households don’t have enough to eat.”—
“This study examines the question of whether infants and children fare better in U.S. states that have the most restrictive abortion laws. Eighteen indicators of infant/child health, family, economic, and educational status are analyzed. The empirical evidence finds that states with the most antiabortion policies are also the same states that have significantly lower indicators of infant/child well-being.”—
In February 2008, a 37-year-old Swiss woman who had never been vaccinated against measles arrived in Tucson after a visit to Mexico. She developed breathing problems and a rash and went to a local hospital’s emergency room. They suspected she had a viral illness and admitted her.
Here’s what you have to know, to understand what happened next. Measles is extremely contagious; up to 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it will get it. And if someone nearby has it, you will get exposed — because coughed-out measles virus can travel across a room, and hangs in the air for hours. The best protection against spreading measles in a hospital is putting someone in a negative-pressure isolation room, which is engineered so no air can leak out into the rest of the hospital. It took two days to get the Swiss tourist into isolation, because measles is rare enough in the US that it was not the hospital personnel’s first thought.
A 50-year-old woman who had spent an hour in the ER at the same time as the Swiss woman caught the disease from her. Patient 2 got taken care of, went home, and started feeling feverish nine days later. She had difficulty breathing and thought at first she was having an asthma attack, so she went back to the hospital and was admitted for two days. That she had measles would not be discovered until six days after that.
While she was in the hospital, Patient 2 unknowingly infected a 41-year-old health care worker who took care of her — and who was scheduled to get a measles-vaccine booster shot that very day, because the hospital was also caring for the tourist. Patient 2 also passed measles to an unvaccinated 11-month-old boy who was in the same ER while she was waiting to get checked for asthma, and to two unvaccinated siblings — 3 and 5 years old — who were visiting their mother on the same hospital floor after Patient 2 was admitted.
Patient 3, the health-care worker, passed measles to a 47-year-old woman in her emergency department — who later ended up in an intensive care unit with measles pneumonia — and later to a 41-year-old man in his home. Patient 4, the toddler, gave the virus to an unvaccinated 1-year-old while they were both in the same pediatrician’s office. Five other people were infected somewhere in their everyday lives: a 2-year-old boy who had never been vaccinated and who also ended up in an ICU with seizures brought on by high fever; a 9-month-old and an 8-month-old, also unvaccinated; and two adults, 35 and 37, who might have gotten one dose as children, but had no documentation of receiving a second dose.
Those 14 are just the confirmed cases. In addition to them, there were 363 suspected ones, and today’s paper makes clear authorities believe there were more illnesses than they know.
My daughter’s previous pediatrician told us that one person with measles in their waiting room not only could infect practically everyone else in the waiting room at the same time as the child if they were not vaccinated, but could also infect everyone who came into the waiting room for up to 13 hours after the child left. It’s extremely contagious and does not require direct contact. Just being in the same room as someone who was sick several hours after they are left is enough to get sick. And serious complications are not that uncommon.
So while anti-vaxxers are refusing to vaccinate their kids because of a side effect—seizures brought on by high fever—of the vaccine that is extremely rare, they put their kid, and any other unvaccinated kid, at risk of having the exact same complications from an actual illness where that complication is much more common…plus a ton more complications.
“Porn is about male fantasy. The fantasy is that women like everything you do to them, as man.
So how does this translate into real life? Women spend a lot of time and energy trying to please men. We learn early on that we are being looked at – that we are to be looked at. That we are performers. It took years before I actually started enjoying sex. YEARS. I think what I enjoyed most about sex, when I was younger, was the feeling of being desired. The actual sex part was super boring for the first while.
the hunger games aren’t amazingly unique or flawless or anything but I think katniss as a character is very important and i think the media misunderstands
we aren’t in it for the cute boys. we’re in it for katniss. thousands of young girls were introduced to an introverted, angry girl born into poverty and watched her become the savior of the world and the media doesn’t seem to understand that she, as a character, is important to girls. not who she dates, but her