Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Oklahoma-Marriage-Equality

Oklahoma Same-Sex Marriage Awaits 10th District Ruling

Another domino fell last week as another federal judge struck down a same-sex marriage ban in another conservative state—the second such occurrence in less than 30 days.

In a Jan. 14 ruling, Senior U.S. District Judge Terrence C. Kern overturned Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage, passed by Oklahoma voters in 2004—the same year Utah voters passed its same-sex marriage ban, overturned by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby on Dec. 20. (See our Dec. 30 post on the Utah ruling.)

As reported by The Oklahoman:

After dissecting the arguments supporters voiced to justify the ban, Kern said that “moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification.”

Moreover, he said, protecting the sanctity of marriage wasn't a valid reason for the ban, given Oklahoma's high divorce rate of opposite-sex couples, and encouraging procreation wasn't logical either since opposite-sex couples aren't required to say they'll produce offspring in order to get a marriage license.

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed,” Kern said in his 68-page decision.

“It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

In his ruling, Kern said that the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment passed by voters in 2004 that restricts marriage to “one man and one woman” “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by precluding same-sex couples from receiving an Oklahoma marriage license.”

Supreme Court law now prohibits states from passing laws that are born of animosity against homosexuals, extends constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals, and prohibits the federal government from treating opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently. There is no precise legal label for what has occurred in Supreme Court jurisprudence beginning with Romer in 1996 and culminating in Windsor in 2013, but this Court knows a rhetorical shift when it sees one.

In the Utah case, Shelby refused calls to stay his decision pending legal appeals, allowing some 1,300 same-sex couples to tie the knot before the U.S. Supreme Court finally called a halt to give the case a chance to work its way through the lower courts. Kern, in contrast, immediately put a stay on his Oklahoma ruling pending appeals, preventing same-marriages from beginning immediately in that state.

Oklahoma is in the same federal circuit as Utah, and [Norman attorney Don] Holladay, [who took over the case several years ago,] said he hopes the two cases are combined. The U.S. Supreme Court last week put gay marriages on hold in Utah while the appeals court hears the case, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the marriages that already had occurred would be recognized by the federal government.

As reported in the gay news blog, Towleroad, a suit challenging Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban has been on the books since 2004. Towleroad reported in August 2013 that the case had resurfaced again in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

A 2004 challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage has been in a holding pattern for over a year while the federal court in Tulsa waited for the outcome of several high profile gay marriage cases including Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor. The couples who first brought the suit, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, are challenging not only Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage but also a crucial part of DOMA not addressed in the Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling, the section that "allows states not to recognize gay marriages performed in other states."

In his Jan. 14 ruling, Kern writes of the original plaintiffs:

The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities. Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification.

In April 2013, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a resolution reaffirming the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and supporting DOMA. The resolution passed on an 84-0 vote, but only after the House Democratic Leader and more than half of the 29 House Democrats walked out, refusing to vote, according to local news reports.

The Oklahoma decision is another case in which judicial rulings have made clear that the majority view must give way to individual constitutional rights, just as occurred during the period when federal Civil Rights legislation enforced the racial integration of the South. Adjudicating equality for LGBT people, and equal legal protections for their families, is the right thing to do, and it is this same basic principle of basic individual and inalienable rights that this country was founded on. Quite simply, equality is on the right side of justice.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
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Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
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Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
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Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.