Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oklahoma You're OK

2004 was a big year for marriage. Utah passed its constitutional amendment 3 and Oklahoma its SQ711. SQ711 stands for “question 711” which amended the constitution of the state of Oklahoma. Both amendments “defined” marriage as being between a man and a woman.

In November of 2004 two same sex couples (Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton) filed suit. Almost 10 years later, on January 14th 2014, Judge Terence Kern of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled that part a of the SQ711 that amended article two of the Oklahoma constitution violated the equal protection clause of the US constitution.

Though the ability to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples was stayed the next stop is probably the same 10th district court that overturned Utah’s amendment 3, and then denied enough stays to allow some 1300 same-sex couples to get married.

I picture throngs of same-sex couples marching on the state capitol in Oklahoma City while singing:

“They couldn't pick a better time to start in life!
 It ain't too early and it ain't too late
Startup as a farmer with a brand new wife
Soon be liv-in in a brand new state!” -- Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II

Last April the Oklahoma house voted 84-0 in unanimous support for their marriage discrimination amendment. The legislators could feel the winds of change, and wanted to oppose those changes.

“Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
Where the wav-in wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain
ev'ry night my honey lamb and I Sit alone and talk
and watch a hawk Makin lazy circles in the sky” -- Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II

Oklahoma’s marriage discrimination constitutional amendment included three clauses that stated:
a.) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
b.) A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.
c.) Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor

Clause (a) was ruled upon, but there might be a reason to strike this amendment because clause (b) looks like it is specifically designed to interfere with interstate commerce. I would venture to guess that the people waiting to dance their way to the courthouse steps for their licenses don’t really care which clause brought the amendment to its knees; to them it is all OK!

“We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand
Yippi-I, Yippi-I, Yippi-I, Yippi-I, Yippi-I, Yippi-i
And when we say
Were only say-in
"you're doing fine Oklahoma,
Oklahoma you're OK” “ -- Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II

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