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:
Responses to the ruling were predictable:
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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