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Gay Marriage Rulings in Utah and Oklahoma: a Trend?

by Norris Law Group on January 21, 2014

Within the span of just one month, two federal judges have struck down bans on gay marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, stating that the bans are unconstitutional as they deny equal treatment under the law to same-sex couples.

ABC News & AP report that although this construct has been the heart of the gay marriage debate for decades, these rulings in traditionally conservative Utah and Oklahoma may provide momentum for those pursuing similar arguments across the country. More than three dozen cases are challenge gay marriage bans in 20 states.

Don Holladay, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the Oklahoma case opined that the “most important question” is whether the US Supreme Court agrees to consider the legality of gay marriage bans now or whether the justices wait.

The Supreme Court decision last summer to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman triggered the series of rulings we’re now seeing, said Douglas NeJaime, a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine.

The judges in Utah and Oklahoma cited this decision from SCOTUS, and both interpreted it to mean that any ban of same-sex marriage is therefore unconstitutional, he said.

These rulings in Utah and Oklahoma may have added significance because both of these states are traditionally conservative, with residents strongly voicing their opposition to gay marriage.

In 2004, Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban was passed by 76 percent of voters and Utah’s with 66 percent. Oklahoma also had a law that forbid state officials from recognizing adoptions by same-sex couples that were approved in other states. A higher court overturned that measure, NeJaime said.

“These decisions are coming out of states that didn’t seem like they were in play long ago,” NeJaime said. “It expands the movement in a lot of ways.”

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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