U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern ruled Tuesday afternoon that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Judge Kern's ruling described the state's ban as "irrational and arbitrary" and said it does not advance the state's claimed interest in child welfare. His ruling is the third in which a federal court has struck down a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, following one in Utah last December and a 2010 ruling in California which struck down the state's Proposition 8. Courts have also been responsible for legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa, New Mexico, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Same-sex marriages will not occur immediately in Oklahoma, as Kern stayed the ruling pending an appeal. Oklahoma is part of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is already hearing an appeal regarding the Utah decision. The 10th Circuit’s ruling in Utah’s case will apply to Oklahoma as well, making the decision somewhat superfluous.
The decision makes Oklahoma the first state to have a ban on same-sex marriage struck down in 2014. Seven states legalized the practice in 2013, along with Utah’s unresolved case and Illinois, whose legalization will take effect June 1.
The case, brought by Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, was first filed in 2004 but had dragged on for over nine years with almost no movement.