Same-sex marriage continued its victorious momentum towards the end of last week. On Thursday, Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia became the latest federal judge to strike down a gay marriage ban, allowing same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in Monroe County. As the state of Florida rejoiced, couples in Oklahoma scored another major victory just a day later.
On Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Oklahoma’s second ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional, acknowledging that same-sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry. In what was celebrated by gay rights activists in the state as a major step towards equality for all people in the state of Oklahoma and puts the state on the right side of history.
The decision was made by a three-judge panel, which upheld a federal judge’s initial ruling back in January. It was a ruling that sparked celebration, but angered Republican leaders who believe the court has overstepped its bounds in what they believe is a state issue. Sharon Baldwin and her partner Mary Bishop was one of two couples that launched the lawsuit. Baldwin said after the ruling that it is a victory that many gays and lesbians have been waiting for.
Baldwin said, “There are so many gay and lesbian Oklahomans who are celebrating, and they have every right to, because this is a victory for all of us. We may be the people at the front line holding the flag, but never think for one minute that there’s not a huge army behind us. We are far from alone on this.”
The decision was the second time the federal appeals court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. In June, the court also found that the U.S. Constitution protects same-sex marriage in the state of Utah. The Supreme Court will have both rulings to consider when same-sex marriage cases reach that level.
As Oklahoma and Utah have taken the next step in the fight for marriage equality, the state of Florida is just beginning that fight. In a decision referred to as “the beginning of the end.” Garica’s ruling could be just the first in a line of rulings in favor of same-sex marriage in the state as decisions are expected soon in two other cases. Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing the Monroe County ruling and is prepared to appeal other decisions made in the state striking down Florida’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional.