US federal judge rules Oklahoma ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

Judge Kern said the state's law is "arbitrary and irrational"

A US federal judge has ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution, but stayed the effects of the ruling while the state’s courts decide how to proceed.

District Judge Terence Kern said that a law approved by voters in 2004 was “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.”

The decision on the largely conservative southern state comes after a federal judge overturned a ban on same-sex marriage in the western state of Utah in early January.

Hundreds of couples had got married in Utah last year before the US Supreme Court intervened to stop weddings until the state’s courts sorted out the matter. The fate of gay marriage in Utah now rests in the hands of a federal appeals court in Denver.

Judge Kern cited the Utah situation in issuing the stay on his own ruling.

Read more: US federal government to recognise gay marriage in Utah even though state will not

The constitutional amendment approved by Oklahoma voters says that marriage in the state consists only of the union of one man and one woman, a measure which Judge Kern said violates the US Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“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,” Kern wrote.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office, which has supported the law, did not immediately have a comment on the ruling.

Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, a couple from the Oklahoman city of Tulsa, filed a lawsuit along with another same-sex couple in November 2004, shortly after voters overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment.

The couples sought the right to marry and have marriage from other states recognised in Oklahoma.

Judge Kern said that the Bishop couple have “been in a loving, committed relationships for many years" and they should be recognised as a married couple “with all its attendant rights and responsibilities.”

27 US states, other than Utah and Oklahoma, constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage. Four more states, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming do not permit it through state laws.

Additional reporting by AP

Read more: Utah scrambles to halt same-sex marriages after surprise ruling overturns ban

Utah gay couples wed after same-sex marriage ban struck down by judge  

 

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor