Federal judge Terrence Kern has struck down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that it violates the US Constitution.
Judge Kern wrote that the denial of spousal benefits to same-sex couples demonstrated, “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.”
A 2004 constitutional amendment defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Kern said the amendment is based on “moral disapproval.”
On November 3, 2004, a day after the legislation was passed, a case against it was was brought forth by two same-sex couples: Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, who sued for the right to marry; and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, who were legally married in California and sued for recognition of their status by the state.
The lawsuit is the longest pending marriage equality case in the country. At the time it was filed, the case challenged both the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as the Oklahoma state ban.
Appeals from Oklahoma will be heard in the 10th Circuit Court, the same body currently hearing the appeal process from Utah.
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.”