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Federal judge rules Oklahoma same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [text] to the US Constitution. Article II section 35 of the Oklahoma Constitution [text] enacted in 2004 by State Question No. 711 [text, PDF] defines marriage in Oklahoma as "consist[ing] only of the union of one man and one woman." Judge Terence Kern found that the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment deprives a class of Oklahoma citizens of equal protection of the law, characterizing the ban as "an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit." The decision has been stayed [NYT report] pending an anticipated appeal by the state of Oklahoma to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website].

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has been an intensely debated issue in the US. Last week US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced [JURIST report] that the federal government will recognize the marriages that took place while same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in the state of Utah. A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] struck down [JURIST report] the state's same-sex marriage ban in December, and the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the day the ruling was issued. Earlier this month the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in Utah was temporarily blocked by the US Supreme Court after the Utah Attorney General [official website] filed an application for stay [JURIST reports] with the court. Also in January four same-sex couples filed [JURIST report] a class action lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] seeking to overturn the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In December the New Mexico Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

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