The Norman Transcript

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August 6, 2010

State poised as unlikely same-sex battleground

NORMAN — A federal judge’s ruling Wednesday in California — and a federal judge’s decision last month in Massachusetts — have made conservative Oklahoma in the middle of the country an unlikely battleground for gay marriage.

Longtime Broken Arrow couple Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, who are the named plaintiffs challenging Oklahoma’s Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, said California’s case does not carry any legal precedent in their own case. However, Baldwin said it shows “the tide is turning” and more judges could follow the lead of what has happened in California and Massachusetts.

On the other side of the issue, Michael L. Jestes, executive director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, said he was not surprised to hear the ruling Wednesday, and he urged opponents of same-sex marriage to get involved at the grassroots level because the debate likely will heat up in Oklahoma.

Although the U.S. district judge’s decision does not have a direct effect on pending legal challenges against Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban, Toby Jenkins, president of Oklahomans for Equality, said the news provides optimism that the state law could be changed one day.

Opposition, challenges remain

Jestes said California’s ruling is worrisome because he said it is ignoring the voice of the people who voted for Proposition 8.

“It is not mainstream America to redefine marriage,” he said. “I think that needs to be a state right, and this is the third time people (in California) have overwhelmingly spoken against redefining marriage, and it is the third time people have then tried to go around the corner to redefine marriage.

“It has faced us in the East and West,” he said referring to court challenges in California and Massachusetts. “And it is only a matter of time before it comes here to the middle (of the country).”

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