TULSA, Okla. (AP) - In striking down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern described it as "an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit."
"Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed," Kern's 68-page decision says. "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.
Tulsa couple Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin had filed the Oklahoma lawsuit along with another same-sex couple in November 2004, shortly after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state. The couples were seeking the right to marry and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction recognized in Oklahoma.
"The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years," the judge said. "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."
But Oklahoma's constitutional amendment "excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification," Kern said.