MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

April 17, 2014

Oklahoma gay-marriage battle gets its day in federal appeals court

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Lawyers for a couple challenging Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage and the clerk who refused to grant them a license head to a federal appeals court Thursday with the rare opportunity to build on arguments the judges heard in a similar case just a week earlier.

Judges at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard arguments last week about Utah’s gay-marriage ban, and on Thursday they will take up the Oklahoma case with the same key issue: Did voters single out gay people for unfair treatment when they defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

Last week’s arguments gave the Oklahoma legal teams a chance to fine-tune their arguments.

“Essentially, (the cases) are not that different,” said Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior counsel, Byron Babione, who is representing the Tulsa County clerk. “Both of them involve challenges to state marriage amendments that were passed by an overwhelming majority of the people.”

Babione said the legal team for Clerk Sally Howe Smith was encouraged by hard questions posed by the 10th Circuit last week, saying they seemed tailored to their argument that a state’s residents have the right to define marriage how they see fit.

But lawyers for Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin can point U.S. Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes’ question on whether Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was similar to Virginia’s former ban on interracial marriage. The Supreme Court struck down that ban 47 years ago.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern of Tulsa ruled in January that Oklahoma’s ban violated the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

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