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Oklahoma!

Where the same sex marriages come whistling down the plains.

RedEquality

U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.

The ruling is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in Oklahoma.

In striking down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Judge Terrence Kern described it as “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.”

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed,” Kern’s 68-page decision says. “It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

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Two plaintiff couples, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin — who both work at the Tulsa World — and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton, filed their case in November 2004.

The legal challenge came shortly after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state. The couples were seeking the right to marry and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction recognized in Oklahoma.

“The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years,” the judge said. “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.”

But Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment “excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification,” Kern said.

The order is stayed pending appeal, so there won’t be a mad Utah-like rush to the county clerk’s offices for licenses just yet. But you can’t deny it’s coming. You think Texas Republicans are maybe feeling a little nervous about their court date next month? You can see a copy of the judge’s decision at the link above, and Freedom to Marry has more.

UPDATE: Here’s a longer version of that Tulsa World story.

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