Tuesday a federal judge in Oklahoma struck down the state’s marriage ban, saying that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.
“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed,” Senior U.S. District Judge Terrence C. Kern said in his 68-page decision.
“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.”
This case was first brought by a pair of lesbian couples in 2004, the same year that Oklahoma citizens voted to put a ban on same-sex marriage in their state’s constitution.
Susan Barton, one of the four women involved, told CNN that she is “absolutely thrilled” with the decision, saying it was worth the long fight. She and her partner, Gay Phillips, have lived in Oklahoma for more than 50 years. They have been together for the past three decades and got a civil union in Vermont and have marriage licenses issued from Vancouver, British Columbia, and San Francisco.
“You can’t stay in this for nine years and not have faith,” Barton said. “… I feel like we are already married, (but) I want our state to recognize our marriage.”
After dissecting the arguments supporters voiced to justify the ban, Kern said that “moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification.”
Moreover, he said, protecting the sanctity of marriage wasn’t a valid reason for the ban, given Oklahoma’s high divorce rate of opposite-sex couples, and encouraging procreation wasn’t logical either since opposite-sex couples aren’t required to say they’ll produce offspring in order to get a marriage license.
“This is a tremendous day for loving and committed same-sex couples and their families in Oklahoma, building on the momentum of eight other states that ended their restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples in 2013. The federal district judge has done the right thing by affirming that marriage is a fundamental freedom for all people, gay and non-gay – for all of us who believe in liberty and fairness,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.
Wolfson added, “As the case makes its way up through the courts, we will continue to do the work of having conversations about why marriage matters and creating a climate for victory when the Supreme Court eventually takes the freedom to marry case that brings national resolution. The momentum for the freedom to marry will continue as we win more hearts and minds, working to bring the freedom to marry throughout the country.”
Read Tuesday’s ruling here.