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Tulsa County couple urges high court to hear same-sex marriage case

WASHINGTON _ The Tulsa County couple that successfully challenged Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban before a federal judge and appeals court urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to affirm the rulings that the ban is unconstitutional.

A brief filed with the justices says the time has come for the court to decide “whether state laws denying same-sex couples the right to marry should be discarded into the same ‘ash heap of history’” as bans on interracial marriage and laws against sexual relations between people of the same sex.

The brief was filed about three weeks after Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith asked the high court to reverse a decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Oklahoma’s 2004 constitutional ban violated 14th Amendment protections of equal protection and due process under the law.

Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, of Tulsa County,  sued Smith when she denied them a marriage license.

The briefs filed for the court clerk and the couple both argue that the Oklahoma case is a good one for the court to use to decide the issue of state bans on same-sex marriage.

“It was the first case in the country filed to challenge the spate of
anti-gay-marriage laws enacted in 2004,” the brief filed Wednesday says.

“This case also lacks any alternative claims or procedural
glitches that could prevent this Court from reaching and resolving the fundamental question whether states may deny same-sex couples the right to marry.”

Petitions from Utah and Virginia have also been filed asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review federal appeals court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans.

The Supreme Court is in recess until Oct. 6. However, the justices are scheduled to meet late in September  to discuss whether to accept some of the pending cases.

Parties in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia have been racing to get on the court’s agenda for that late September discussion. The brief for Bishop and Baldwin wasn’t due until Sept. 5, so attorneys for the couple beat that by more than a week.



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Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›