Plaintiff couple Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin
Judge Says OK to Marriage Equality in Oklahoma

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com January 14 2014 6:34 PM ET

The victories keep coming, from unexpected places: A federal judge in Oklahoma today ruled that the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern’s ruling is on hold pending appeal, so same-sex couples in Oklahoma will not be able to marry immediately, reports the Human Rights Campaign. Nonetheless, the national LGBT rights group welcomed Kern’s decision with a statement issued by its president, Chad Griffin.

“Judge Kern has come to the conclusion that so many have before him — that the fundamental equality of lesbian and gay couples is guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” Griffin said. “With last year’s historic victories at the Supreme Court guiding the way, it is clear that we are on a path to full and equal citizenship for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Equality is not just for the coasts anymore, and today’s news from Oklahoma shows that time has come for fairness and dignity to reach every American in all 50 states.”

Two couples — Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton — filed the case, Bishop v. Oklahoma, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in November 2004, the same year the largely conservative state adopted the antigay amendment. Their legal team is led by Don Holladay and James Warner of the Oklahoma City law firm Holladay and Chilton.

With this decision, 19 states and the District of Columbia have approved marriage equality either through legislative action or court decision. This number includes two states with rulings on hold — Utah and Oklahoma — and one state, Illinois, whose law has yet to go into effect. The Illinois marriage equality law is effective June 1, although couples in which at least one partner has a serious illness can apply to receive a marriage license earlier.