Oklahoma marriage amendment may meet same fate as Louisiana measure
Oklahoma's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages differs from a similar amendment that was dismissed this week by a Louisiana judge, the legislation's principal author says. Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state's constitution to ban such marriages, but Judge William Morvant on Monday ruled that it was flawed because it included more than one purpose: banning not only gay marriage but also civil unions.
Oklahoma state senator James Williamson, the principal author of the language that became State Question 711, said he doesn't think SQ 711 would ban civil unions automatically. "The ballot title indicates that it prohibits giving the benefit of marriage to people who are not married, but the actual language of the amendment itself says neither this constitution or any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups," he said.
Williamson, a lawyer, said state questions regarding constitutional amendments often have many different subcategories but that the standard legal test always has been whether the question addresses one prevailing subject. "For example, during the legislative fight on the issue, Sen. Frank Shurden tried to put cockfighting on it. That would have been more than one subject," Williamson said.
Oklahoma and 10 other states have crafted measures for the November 2 ballot asking voters whether the state constitution should be amended to ban same-sex marriage. The others are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah.
Keith Smith, one of a dozen plaintiffs in a failed lawsuit to knock SQ 711 off the Oklahoma ballot, said opponents are "elated to hear of this turn of events in Louisiana."
"It's especially wonderful for us in Oklahoma because we lost our first round in the state supreme court on similar grounds," Smith said. "We knew we would keep fighting, and now there is hope that the Oklahoma supreme court--if this amendment should pass--will follow suit and throw out the amendment." The Oklahoma supreme court last month declined to consider a lawsuit challenging SQ 711, clearing the way for the measure to appear on the November 2 ballot. The plaintiffs had said the question deals with multiple subjects.