Wednesday brought a big victory for supporters of same-sex marriage.
The 10th circuit Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The decision is another big blow to Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban.
Currently, Oklahoma is one of several states across the country that bans same-sex couples from marrying.
The appeals court had two state bans to consider, one from Utah and one from Oklahoma.
The ruling applies to the Utah case, but it does set the stage for Oklahoma’s law to be defeated as well.
“This is a major decision,” said Scott Hamilton with the Cimarron Alliance.
“Today’s decision affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness for gay and lesbian couples and their families. The 10th Circuit is the highest court thus far to rule on the freedom to marry, and its decision affirms what we have long known – the question is no longer ‘if’ marriage will be afforded to all, but ‘when.’ And we firmly believe that the answer is sooner rather than later,” said Troy Stevenson, a spokesperson for Freedom Oklahoma.
In January a federal judge ruled Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
That decision that remains under appeal but the appeals court has now ruled, “The Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons…based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”
“What they have said is that states can’t simply decide who you marry based on who you love,” said Hamilton.
Back in 2004 Oklahoma voters put a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
That’s why many statehouse Republicans have called the federal court rulings an intrusion into state rights.
Still, Hamilton sees the appeals court ruling as another step on the path to equal right for all.
“I think we’re closer than ever before to a time when Oklahomans can love and marry who they want,” said Hamilton. “Everyday we gain more allies and people who believe in freedom and equality.”
Officially the Oklahoma appeal is still pending.
Bishop v. Smith is currently before a panel of judges and is expected to be decided any day now.
Ultimately, that decision will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Across the country, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to wed.
In all, 22 rulings in recent months have found that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional.