U.S. District Judge Terence Kern
announced his decision Tuesday in Tulsa.
The ruling has been stayed pending
appeal, which means same-sex marriages will not occur immediately in
Ryan Kiesel, executive director and
spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, called
the 68-page written decision an “historic day for all of Oklahoma.”
“We have joined the national
discussion that eventually will be decided in favor of equality,”
he said. “From a legal standpoint, this means no government,
whether at the local, state or federal level, [can] discriminate
based on a person’s sexual orientation. Any discrimination against
someone based on sexual orientation is suspect and unconstitutional.”
Two couples filed their discrimination
lawsuit against the state in November 2004. The couples had sued for
the right to marry and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction
recognized in Oklahoma.
The lawsuit was filed soon after voters
in 2004 approved a ban on same-sex marriages. Oklahoma was one of 11
states to pass the ban that year.
Scott Hamilton, executive director of
the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center in Oklahoma City, called the
judge’s ruling a “major, major milestone.”
“Kids 25 years from now will be
reading about this in their history classes and it will have just as
big an impact as in 1967 when the Supreme Court ruled interracial
marriage was constitutional,” he said. “While we won’t be able
to get marriage licenses tomorrow it moves us forward and we are
confident it will stand on appeal.”
However, conservatives Republicans like
U.S. Rep. James Lankford and Gov. Mary Fallin were not as excited
about the landmark judicial decision.
“This is why the American people are
so frustrated with government and government officials; the people
speak clearly but elected officials and judges ignore them,” he
said in a prepared statement.
Lankford was referring to the 2004
constitutional amendment Oklahoma voters approved that defined
marriage as between a man and a woman.
Fallin said in her prepared statement
she is “disappointed” in the judge’s decision.
“I am troubled that the will of the
people has once again been ignored by the federal government,” she
said. “I support the right of Oklahoma’s voters to govern
themselves on this and other policy matters.”
Kristin Davis, president of Woven, a national
online resource for gays and lesbians that’s based in Oklahoma City, praised the judge’s
of Woven, I’m thrilled that LGBT couples in Oklahoma will soon be
able to enjoy the benefits of legalized marriage that they have long
deserved. The judge’s decision is wonderful news for Oklahoma and
will demonstrate to the rest of the country that it is time for all
Americans to be treated equally,” she said in an emailed statement.