A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the the U.S. Constitution.
In light of a similar decision in Utah last month, same-sex marriages won't happen immediately, because U.S. District Judge Terrence Kern stayedhis ruling pending an appeal. Several hundred same-sex couples got married in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court halted the weddings until the issue is settled.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt did not immediately comment.
In 2004, Oklahoma voters enshrined heterosexual marriage into the state constitution. Two lesbian couples then sued for the right to marry and to have marriages in other states recognized in Oklahoma.
Kern ruled the amendment violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, calling the ban "an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit."
"Excluding same-sex couples from marriage has done little to keep Oklahoma families together thus far, as Oklahoma consistently has one of the highest divorce rates in the country," Kern wrote in his 68-page opinion.
"Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions," Kern wrote. "Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights."
He noted that Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, one of the two couples who sued, have "been in a loving, committed relationships for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities."
While noting that the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether same-sex marriages can be banned, Kern pointed out that the high court "now prohibits states against homosexuals, extends constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals, and prohibits the federal government from treating opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently."