Brief in Okla. Gay Marriage Ban Lawsuit Expected

by Kristi Eaton
Monday Feb 24, 2014

Lawyers for a Tulsa County Clerk face a Monday deadline to file a brief outlining an appeal of a federal judge's ruling that overturned Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage.

A brief from the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Sally Howe Smith is expected to lay out arguments in defense of the state's marriage ban. It's the first step in the process that will lead to an April 17 hearing before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

A federal judge in January struck down Oklahoma's 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

"Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived 'threat' they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority's disapproval of the defined class," U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote. "It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships."

Kern's ruling said that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it precludes same-sex couples from receiving an Oklahoma marriage license. The ruling was blasted by Oklahoma's Republican governor, attorney general and other elected officials. Kern immediately stayed the effects of his ruling, anticipating an appeal.

Kern's ruling was one of several in the past few months to strike down or void part of such a ban.

A similar appeal out of Utah is being heard by the 10th Circuit. Utah state attorneys filed their opening arguments earlier this month, saying the optimal environment for raising a child is with a mother and father. A federal judge there had ruled in December that the voter-approved ban was unconstitutional. More than 1,000 gay couples got married in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay in the case, halting the marriages during the appeals process. Oral arguments in the Utah case are scheduled for April 10.

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