Appeals court upholds ruling voiding Oklahoma gay marriage ban

Fri Jul 18, 2014 7:09pm EDT
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By Heide Brandes

Oklahoma City (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court decision voiding as unconstitutional Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, drawing on a similar decision it made for Utah.

The decision by the three-judge panel of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest in a series of rulings by judges in federal and state courts to find such exclusions violate the U.S. Constitution.

The appellate court last month upheld a decision that gay couples have a right to marry in Utah. Gay marriage is on hold in both Utah and Oklahoma while appeals are being resolved.

The Oklahoma lawsuit was brought in 2004 by two lesbian couples in long-term relationships. Both couples claim economic harms as a result of the Oklahoma law.

One of the couples, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, say their inability to marry under the law is "demeaning" and "signals to others that they should not respect our relationship," according to court documents.

Numerous lawsuits and rulings regarding same-sex marriage bans have followed the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Utah ruling was the first at the appellate level since the Supreme Court decision.

There are now 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal. In another nine states, federal judges have struck down bans on same-sex marriage but the rulings have been put on hold pending appeal.

About 76 percent of Oklahoma voters approved the ban on gay marriage in 2004.   Continued...

Darren Black Bear (C) and Jason Pickel (R) are interviewed after being married by Darren's father Rev. Floyd Black Bear in El Reno, Oklahoma October 31, 2013.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking