Oklahoma prohibition on same-sex marriages found unconstitutional

by Charles S. Plumb

The last several months have witnessed a flurry of court activity regarding same-sex marriage laws. On Tuesday, January 14, Oklahoma joined that activity with an order and opinion issued by Tulsa’s federal court.

In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution defining “marriage” to be exclusively a union between a man and a woman. In some respects, the Oklahoma constitutional amendment tracked the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In June 2013, the U.S Supreme Court found that DOMA’s comparable definition of marriage was unconstitutional. This Tuesday’s ruling in Tulsa held that the Oklahoma law’s limitation of marriages to only opposite-sex couples was also unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Tulsa’s federal court delayed the effect of its ruling until after any appeal. A Utah federal court reached the same conclusion regarding that state’s law, and that decision is making its way through an expedited appeal process to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Oklahoma employers). Don’t be surprised if appeals of the Utah and Oklahoma decisions are combined.

Pending appeal, any lasting impact of this week’s decision is uncertain. We will keep you advised of developments in this rapidly changing employment and benefits issue.

Charles S. Plumb is an editor of Oklahoma Employment Law Letter and a partner with McAfee & Taft in Tulsa. He can be reached at charlie.plumb@mcafeetaft.com.

About Oklahoma Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Oklahoma Employment Law Letter and written by an attorney at the law firm of McAfee & Taft. OKLAHOMA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER does not attempt to offer solutions to any individual problems or to provide legal advice to its readers. Rather, the OKLAHOMA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER seeks to provide information about current developments in Oklahoma employment law. Questions about individual problems or requests for legal advice should be addressed to an employment law attorney of your choice. Contact the attorneys at McAfee & Taft.
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