Woodward, Okla. — In both causes, federal judges said the states' gay marriage laws violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
"Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed," Kern wrote. "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."
Tulsa couple Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, who work at the Tulsa World newspaper, filed the Oklahoma lawsuit along with another same-sex couple in November 2004, shortly after voters approved the constitutional amendment. Their case was the longest-running challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, according to the national gay marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
"There's so much emotion, I'm kind of crying right now," Bishop said Tuesday. "It's overwhelming to think that we finally won.
"Sharon and I want to get married here in Oklahoma. We've been together for more than 17 years — it's time. This is something that when I was young, I thought I'd never see in my lifetime."
Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith said there was no way under Oklahoma law for her to give the couple a marriage license. "That's how I became a defendant in the case," she said.
Taylor, with Lambda Legal, said she wasn't sure why the judge's ruling came now, though she noted that he made several references to the Utah case in his ruling.
In 2006, the Tulsa couples' case made its way to the 10th Circuit after the district court denied the governor of Oklahoma and the state attorney general's motion to dismiss the case. The appeals court ruled in 2009 that the couple lacked standing, so the two couples filed an amended complaint removing the governor and attorney general and adding Smith.
"The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years," Kern wrote. "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."