Thursday, January 16, 2014

142.1 - Good news: same-sex marriage might come to Oklahoma

Good news: same-sex marriage might come to Oklahoma

I going to start, as I like to do when I can, with some good news. Good news was rather hard to come by this week, but at least there was this.

On Tuesday, January 14, US District Court Judge Terence Kern ruled that Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriages violates the US Constitution.

Kern found that the ban is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit” and does not advance the state’s asserted interests in promoting heterosexual marriage or the welfare of children.

It's the second time in a month that a federal court has found that a state-level ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution despite having being written into the state's constitution, the other case being that of Utah. States, these courts found, correctly, cannot deny rights guaranteed by the federal constitution.

Unlike Utah, however, there will be no window of opportunity for same-sex couples to marry. There, the judge refused to stay his order, with the result that some 1,300 couples married before the Supreme Court stepped in to stay the order pending an appeal - and before, following that stay, the state of Utah cruelly said it would not recognize those 1300 marriages. Because of the Supreme Court action in the Utah case, Judge Kern stayed his order while Oklahoma appeals.

So there is no immediate benefit - but it's another body blow to the bigots and buffoons. More than 30 states have passed laws or state constitutional amendments restricting marriage to a man and a woman but the constitutionality of all those restrictions is now in question.

By the way, a related bit of good news on this is that even though Utah won't recognize those 1300 marriages, the federal government will.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement on January 10. The decision means same-sex couples married in Utah will have the same federal status as those who were wed in those places where same-sex marriage is now legal, including for purposes of benefits, immigration, and taxation.

Apparently, based on this and previous cases, this is an area where the White House is determined to be on the right side of history.

By the way, if you want an example of those buffoons I mentioned, it develops that Indiana is considering a proposed state constitutional amendment to - you guessed it - ban same-sex marriage. The state already bans marriage equality by law, but the Hoosier hooeys want more.

In fact, more than more. The amendment would not only ban same-sex marriage, it bans civil unions and domestic partnerships and denies recognition to such marriages or unions performed in states where they are now recognized.

In fact, it's so broadly worded that supporters have had to come up with a second bill to explain the first one - to say, for example, that it would not repeal human rights ordinances or ban employers from offering benefits to same-sex partners. Which shows how well they thought through what they were doing - which is especially amusing since proponents of the amendments say that the debate about it has been going on for several years. And in all that time it never occurred to them how poorly it was worded?

Just as a quick footnote, among the opponents of this amendment is the Eli Lilly company, which says it would hurt the company’s ability to attract top talent, pointing out that younger people really don't have a problem with same-sex marriage.

One last thought before I leave this: One of the last-ditch arguments raised against marriage justice is that the legal definition of marriage is a matter for the states. By that argument, aren't they saying that Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down bans on interracial marriage, was wrongly decided and that states should be free to ban interracial marriages?


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