Judge Kern Decision in Oklahoma Marriage Equality Lawsuit

January 16, 2014

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance applauds the recent decision by United States District Judge Terence Kern “…that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”  Although we are disheartened that the Court’s order was put on hold pending further appeal, we are very hopeful that the ultimate outcome of this decision will mean that Oklahomans will be able to have their loving, committed relationships recognized by the state of Oklahoma, regardless of gender or orientation.

It is worth noting that same-gender couples are already able to enter into loving, committed relationships (many of which are blessed and sanctioned by local faith communities).  The question here is not whether same-gender couples can enter into a committed relationship.  Rather, it is about whether those commitments will be treated with the same regard by the state of Oklahoma as the commitments made by opposite-gender couples.

As an interfaith organization committed to the separation of church and state, we agree with the statement by Judge Kern (and other judicial authorities throughout the USA) that “…moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification for a law.”  Among the various faith communities represented by the TIA, we have a range of moral opinions on the issues of homosexuality and marriage.  Despite the rhetoric used by those opposed to same-gender marriage, there is significant modern scholarship of sacred texts that finds no justification for homophobia or laws treating homosexual individuals differently from non-homosexual ones.  The belief that the sacred texts of our forebears prohibit homosexual activity is not a belief that is held by all adherents of any religion.  Especially when religious authorities cannot agree on what the religious teachings should be regarding same-gender marriage, we believe it is of utmost importance to rely on the guidance of our Constitution, rather than the loudest voices.

It is the firm belief of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance that the right to free expression of one’s religion will always be subject to the US Constitution, but the opposite should never be true.  Quoting Judge Kern’s opinion yet again, “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. 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.”

We especially wish to applaud the fortitude and example of the four plaintiffs (Mary Bishop, Sharon Baldwin, Sue Barton and Gay Phillips) as they have waited over nine years for a decision in their case.  We join with them in celebrating this step toward justice, and pledge to continue struggling with them for full recognition of their relationships, and the relationships of countless other same-gender couples in Oklahoma.

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