Tulsa Couple Seeks Trial in Same-Sex Marriage Try
TULSA, Okla. - A same-sex couple that sued for the right to marry knew they’d have an uphill battle in a conservative state like Oklahoma, but nothing like this: Nine years after filing their original lawsuit, they haven’t had their day in court.
The national gay marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry says the lawsuit filed by Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin is the longest-running active lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act. Their complaint, initially filed in November 2004, was revised in 2009 to name the Tulsa County clerk as a defendant but otherwise maintains its basic claim that they should be allowed to marry.
"While some people are getting their day in court and finding justice, we are sitting here, for nine years, with our hands tied," Bishop said.
Bishop and Baldwin met while working at the Tulsa World newspaper and have been together 17 years. They filed their initial lawsuit in November 2004, shortly after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. A second claim, by Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, who had a civil union in Vermont and were legally wed in Canada, challenges a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that says individual states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
The duration of the case contrasts strikingly with the spate of lawsuits filed across the country in the past few months following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling requiring the federal government to recognize same legal same-sex marriages. Indeed, the case that produced that ruling - involving 83-year-old New York widow Edith Windsor - reached the high court just three years after it was filed to protest an estate tax levied after the death of her wife.
In its decision in June, the Supreme Court ruled that section 3 of DOMA - which defined marriage as between a man and women - was unconstitutional. The DOMA aspect of the Oklahoma case centers on the Section 2, which says individual states don’t have to recognize any same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The couples are fighting that, saying it’s unconstitutional because it’s a violation of the equal-protection clause.
Recently, the couple’s lawyer filed paperwork drawing the judge’s attention to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling, just in case the judge was waiting for that ruling to take place before he made his own.