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Judge Strikes Down Okla. Same-Sex Marriage Ban

6:30 PM, Jan 14, 2014   |    comments
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Michael Winter, USA TODAY

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the the U.S. Constitution.

Same-sex marriages won't happen immediately, because U.S. District Judge Terrence Kern stayed his ruling pending an appeal, in light of a similar decision in Utah.

In 2004, Oklahoma voters enshrined heterosexual marriage into the state constitution. Two lesbian couples from Tulsa sued for the right to marry and to have marriages in other states recognized in Oklahoma.

Kern ruled the amendment violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, calling the ban "a total exclusion of only one group."

"Excluding same-sex couples from marriage has done little to keep Oklahoma families together thus far, as Oklahoma consistently has one of the highest divorce rates in the country," Kern wrote in his 68-page opinion.

"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," Kern wrote. "Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights."

He noted that Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, one of the two couples who sued, have "been in a loving, committed relationships for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities. "

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt did not immediately comment.

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