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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Oklahoma


2004 - 2014: A nine year court
battle (and counting) In federal courts.

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Contrasting quotations:

bullet "If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

bullet "A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.

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On election day in 2004-NOV, "Question 711," was overwhelmingly passed by the voters. It amended to the Oklahoma Constitution to ban same-sex marriage (SSM). Like many other amendments passed in other states on that day, it was a stealth amendment. It was promoted as a simple ban of same-sex marriage. However, in reality, it prohibited same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other form of recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships. Such couples were recognized only as "legal strangers" -- as mere roommates without protections for themselves and their children.

Within days after the results were certified, two Oklahoma same-sex couples launched a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. It was called Bishop v. Oklahoma (later Bishop v. Smith). Their goal was to have the amendment declared unconstitutional and to achieve marriage equality in Oklahoma so that all loving, committed couples -- both same-sex and opposite-sex -- could marry. It also attempted to have parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) also declared unconstitutional, particularly the clause that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere.

A little over nine years later, District Court Judge Terence Kern of the federal District Court issued its ruling, declaring Question 711 unconstitutional for the usual reasons seen in many similar cases in other states, That is, because it:

"... violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. ... [that 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." 1

Responses to the ruling were predictable:

  • The plaintiffs and their lawyers were overjoyed.

  • Toby Jenkins, the executive director of Oklahomans for Equality -- a LGBT support group -- organized a party.

  • Religious and social conservatives were outraged. They believe that any constitutional amendment to the state constitution that was passed by the voters is binding, even if it violates the U.S. Constitution. This is an unusual belief, share only by some religious and social conservatives.

Judge Kern issued a stay of his ruling so that same-sex couples would not be able to marry until at least the Court of Appeals had ruled in the case. He did not rule about the DOMA law.

Tulsa County Clerk, Sally Howe Smith, filed an appeal of Judge Kern's ruling with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. She is receiving legal support from Alliance Defending Freedom -- a conservative Christian legal defense group, and from the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office.

On 2014-JAN-14, the defendant Sally Howe Smith, who is the Tulsa County Court Clerk, filed an appeal of the District Court ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They heard oral arguments in the case starting 2014-APR-14.

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Topics covered in this section:

  • Part 1: 2004 to 2014: Amendment to the state Constitution bans SSM. A 9 year court battle in federal court ends in a ruling by District Court.

  • Part 2: 2014: The District Court's ruling (Cont'd). Future impact. Reactions to the court ruling, pro and con.

  • Part 3: 2014 JAN: More reactions to court ruling. What is the core conflict? Webmaster's comment.

  • Part 4: 2014-APR: Webmaster's comments (Cont'd). Case is appealed to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Hearings held.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Oklahoma: Victory for Marriage Equality," The Rainbow Times, 2014-JAN-15, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/
  2. "Judge rules in favor of Tulsa World lesbians," Tulsa Beacon, 2014-JAN-23, at: http://tulsabeacon.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Oklahoma > here

Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2014-JAN-22
Latest update: 2014-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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