On election day in 2004-NOV, "Question 711," was overwhelmingly passed by the voters with a vote of 76% to 24%. It amended the Oklahoma Constitution to:
In addition, it had a unique provision which criminalized the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It stated:
Like many other amendments passed in other states on that day, it was a stealth amendment. It was promoted as a simple ban of same-sex marriage. However, in reality, it prohibited same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other form of recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships. Such couples were recognized only as "legal strangers" -- as mere roommates without protections for themselves and their for children.
We suspect that a major factor causing such an overwhelming, 3 to 1, support for the amendment was the widespread belief at the time that homosexuality is a personal choice. By preventing state from recognzing same-sex couples' relationships, many voters believed that the amendment would cause fewer adults to choose homosexuality. Since that time, an increasing percentage of voters have concluded that homosexual orientation is not chosen, but is discovered.
Within days after the results were certified, two Oklahoma same-sex couples launched a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. It was called Bishop v. Oklahoma (later Bishop v. Smith). Their goal was to have the amendment declared unconstitutional and to achieve marriage equality in Oklahoma/ Then, all loving, committed couples -- both same-sex and opposite-sex -- who had reached the minimum age requirements and were not too closely related, could marry. It also attempted to have parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) also declared unconstitutional, particularly the clause that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere.
A little over nine years later, Judge Terence Kern of the federal District Court issued its ruling, declaring the Question 711 amendment unconstitutional for the usual reasons seen in many similar cases in other states, it:
Responses to the ruling were predictable:
Judge Kern issued a stay of his ruling so that same-sex couples would not be able to marry until at least the Court of Appeals had ruled in the case. He did not rule about the DOMA law. That had already been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court during mid-2013 in the case Windsor v. United States.
On 2014-JAN-14, Tulsa County Clerk and defendant, Sally Howe Smith, filed an appeal of Judge Kern's ruling with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. She received legal support from Alliance Defending Freedom -- a conservative Christian legal defense group, and from the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office.
The Court heard oral arguments in the case starting 2014-APR-14.
On 2014-JUL-18, the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the changes created in the state Constitution by Question 711 were unconstitutional. The ban was void and unenforceable.
As in many other states recently, a chasm has opened up between religious, political, and constitutional conservatives and liberals in the U.S.:
Unfortunately, no significant effort is being made to resolve this difference of opinion through dialogue. Conservatives and liberals seem to prefer throwing verbal rocks at each other, rather than seeking a consensus. More details.
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