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U.S. District Judge Overturns Oklahoma's Gay Marriage Ban, but Stays His Decision

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 21, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

O.K. Oklahoma -- U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern overturned the state's gay marriage ban. However, Judge Kern is staying his decision pending appeal, according to The Washington Post.

Judge Kern's opinion in Bishop v. United States deals with "Part A" of the Oklahoma amendment. He used the rational basis test to determine that the ban is unconstitutional -- much to the chagrin of some Oklahoma politicians.

Rational Basis Review

Similar to Oklahoma's Tenth Circuit buddy Utah, Judge Kern struck down the same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Judge Kern opined in Bishop that because the Oklahoma ban "disadvantages a non-suspect class" a heightened level of review isn't needed. Using the rational basis test, he found that the Part A of the law irrationally excluded a single class of Oklahoma citizens and distinguished without solid justification between opposite-sex couples seeking marriage licenses and same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. Based on that reasoning, Judge Kern overturned the gay marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Oklahoma Government Officials are not 'OK' With the Decision

Some politicians don't seem to understand that just because people voted in favor of a law, it doesn't automatically make the law constitutional. However, politicians do understand the need to appeal to their constituents, so it's no surprise that several Oklahoma government officials are giving Judge Kern's opinion the side-eye.

For instance, Governor Mary Fallin clearly isn't fallin' in love with the ruling, stating, "I am disappointed in the judge's ruling and troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government," according to Tulsa's KJRH 2-TV.

Judge Kern likely anticipated that some Oklahoma government officials would be unhappy about his ruling when he decided to stay his own ruling pending appeals. This is a smart move on Judge Kern's part when looking at hoopla that's happening in Utah -- perhaps if Judge Shelby initially stayed his opinion in Utah, there'd be less confusion and uncertainty over the status of the same-sex marriages.

As a result of Judge Kern's stay on his ruling, same-sex couples still can't get married yet in Oklahoma. With a possible Oklahoma appeal combined with the expedited review of Utah's appeal, the Tenth Circuit is about to get a bit more colorful.

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