As the wave of victories for equality continue to sweep across American courts, Oklahoma has been told yet again that they can’t deny marriage rights to gay couples. In a 2-1 decision Friday, a federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s decision that Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
In 2004, 76% of Oklahoma citizens voted to ban gay marriage across the state. Thanks to the U.S. Constitution, however, laws that discriminate against people don’t hold up in court. In January, District Judge Terence Kern struck down the ban. The decision was appealed to a higher court and now the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, has upheld Kern’s ruling. Judge Carlos Lucero wrote:
“Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage sweeps too broadly in that it denies a fundamental right to all same-sex couples who seek to marry or to have their marriages recognized regardless of their child-rearing ambitions. As with opposite-sex couples, members of same-sex couples have a constitutional right to choose against procreation.”
The plaintiffs, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, started their battle a decade ago after the original ban was put in place. Though over 3/4 of Oklahoma seem to stand against them, Bishop and Baldwin still refused to leave their home. “We are Oklahomans. This is where we’re from and we really have no intention of leaving, and we want to be married here.”
Of course bigots all over the Right are upset about the ruling. Republican Governor Mary Fallin not only managed to display her bigotry but also a clear misunderstanding of how our legal system and the Constitution work:
“Today’s ruling is another instance of federal courts ignoring the will of the people and trampling on the right of states to govern themselves. In this case, two judges have acted to overturn a law supported by Oklahomans.”
The courts’ job isn’t actually to uphold the “will of the people” but to uphold the Constitution, which says all citizens have equal rights and protections under the law (the 14th amendment). Oklahoma violated the rights of their LGBT citizens when they tried to deny them the right to marry. It doesn’t matter if 100% of the state voted for it, if it goes against the Constitution, it ain’t happening. It’s kinda the whole reason we have a Constitution, so that the majority can’t just strip the rights of others.
Congratulations once more to our LGBT allies in Oklahoma. If the gay rights can be upheld in the midst of the Bible Belt the rest of the country can’t be too far behind.