2 lesbian couples had challenged state and federal anti-gay-marriage laws; federal lawsuit continues
TULSA, Okla. — A lawsuit filed by two Tulsa-area lesbian couples who had challenged state and federal restrictions on same-sex marriages has been partially dismissed by a federal appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ordered that claims against the state be dismissed after finding that the couples lacked standing to sue.
The four women sued the state of Oklahoma, Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Gov. Brad Henry in 2004 after voters approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages. They also challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which permits states to ignore gay weddings performed in other states.
The couples claimed they were unable to be married in Oklahoma or have a civil union from another state recognized in Oklahoma.
"These claims are simply not connected to the duties of the Attorney General or the Governor," the appeals court panel ruled. "Marriage licenses are issued, fees collected and the licenses recorded by the district court clerks."
The ruling reverses a lower court’s refusal to dismiss the claims against state officials.
One of the couples who sued, Broken Arrow residents Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, issued a statement following the ruling.
"We believe that with or without our lawsuit, Oklahoma one day will recognize same-sex marriages," they said. "The tide across the country is turning, and it is only a matter of time until all people truly have an equal right to marry.
Bishop and Baldwin have been living in a committed relationship for more than 12 years. Bishop is an assistant city editor for the Tulsa World, and Baldwin is a copy editor for the newspaper.
The other couple, Tulsans Susan G. Barton and Gay E. Phillips, were joined in a civil union conducted in Vermont in 2001. Barton and Phillips, who still have federal claims pending in the case, could not be reached for comment.
Proceedings involving the federal claims have been on hold pending the outcome of the appeal on the state issues.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com