Voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a ban on same-sex marriage, but a state judge ruled in January that the ban was unconstitutional. The issue was in front of the Court of Appeal, marking just the second time a state same-sex marriage case has been heard by a federal court.
James Campbell, an attorney representing the state’s effort to maintain the ban, opened the hearing with an argument for why the marriage ban was not discriminatory. However, just a minute into his argument he began receiving questions from Judge Jerome Holmes who is viewed as the probable swing vote on the three-judge panel.
“The state cannot define marriage any way that it wants and trample constitutional rights, right?” Holmes asked.
Don Holliday, the attorney representing Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the couple who filed the original lawsuit challenging the state’s marriage ban, also received questions from the judges on why his clients were right to sue the Tulsa County clerk’s office.
Following Holliday’s arguments, Campbell returned before the judges and was asked specific questions from Holmes on how granting same-sex marriage licenses would negatively impact the children they raise or other heterosexual couples.
“The burden would not be on the government to show the potential of harm to redefine marriage,” Campbell answered.
The same court heard arguments last week in a very similar case concerning Utah’s same-sex ban, which was also declared unconstitutional by a state judge. A ruling on both cases could come sometime over the next few months and some legal experts believe the two rulings might be announced on the same day.
The losing party will have the option to appeal to the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals or go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is where many legal experts believe the case will ultimately end up. Either Utah’s or Oklahoma’s case could end up at the Supreme Court and be the vehicle for a historic ruling on same-sex marriage in America.