Oklahomans learned today that our recent state constitutional amendment blocking all forms of same-sex marriage will not be allowed to stand. It also passed with a very strong majority, much like the 2010 Sharia law ban, which was also overturned.
Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled the state’s law violated equal protection, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. He called the state’s ban “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit,” and that it is based on “moral disapproval.”
Now that the federal government does not adhere to the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, it has to recognize and honor federal benefits granted to same-sex couples married in states where it is legal, just the same as if it were a heterosexual married couple. Essentially, Tulsa federal Judge Kern’s ruling means that Oklahoma can not have a law denying those benefits, either.
But That Can’t Be Right
All right, so it’s going to significantly affect my home state, and I have a sort of split stance on this ruling. Briefly, here’s where I fall in on same-sex marriage. First of all, I don’t call it gay marriage – gay is a colloquial term. The worst possible situation I can imagine is one in which technical subtleties are overlooked and the whole world refers to this increasingly common living situation using language of which I do not approve.
Now, kidding and grammar aside, I do have an opinion on same-sex marriage. It should be handled by the states. That’s it! I’m a firm states’ rights and Tenth Amendment advocate, and that’s really all I have to say about the controversy. The debate is a very important one our country is having, but that doesn’t mean the US Government has to step in and dictate things. Oh, wait, except that it already has and will likely be the ultimate deciding agency in the end.
My reason for saying the states should handle it (besides that generally speaking I think the states should handle everything anyhow) is that it solves the problem. Let’s say half the US legalizes gay marriage. Where do you think couples that want to have a gay marriage recognized will go? And if you don’t personally recognize the union as a marriage or approve of its existence in society, guess where you don’t have to go?! I know it isn’t as simple as that, but hopefully you can see how that would quickly make gay marriage a much calmer debate, one where society might even come to some terms of agreement someday.
But this state hasn’t elected to recognize those unions. In Oklahoma, seventy-five percent of the voting population elected to restrict marriage to only consist of one man and one woman. It was passed and adopted to our State Constitution in 2004.
Another peculiarity about this case is that Kern refers to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling on DOMA as a factor in his decision, but the Oklahoma case has been underway since long before DOMA’s partial repeal. In fact, the lawsuit bringing this to court was filed in 2004, just after the ban was passed into law.
So for two strong reasons, I have to say there are some serious problems with the ruling. The changes to the Defense of Marriage Act restrict the federal government, not states, and at the time this lawsuit was filed, it was still in full effect! Madness, I tell you. For now, this decision does not change any laws.
In the end, I honestly don’t think the government should be in the business of regulating marriages, but rather in the business of regulating the guarantee that civil agreements (also known as “contracts”) are honored in courts of law.SHARE