TULSA, Okla. -- A federal judge struck down Oklahoma's gay marriage ban Tuesday, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution, but immediately stayed the effects of the ruling while courts sort out the matter.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Terrence Kern criticized a state constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in 2004 in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt. He described it as "an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit."
The Oklahoma ruling comes about a month after a federal judge in Utah overturned that state's ban on same-sex marriage. Hundreds of couples got married there before the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, putting a halt to the weddings until the courts sort out the matter. Kern cited that case in issuing the stay of his own ruling.
The Oklahoma Constitution says marriage in the state consists only of the union of one man and one woman. Kerns said the measure violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause by precluding same-sex couples from receiving an Oklahoma marriage license.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office has supported the law, and did not immediately comment on the ruling.
Not including Utah and Oklahoma, 27 states still prohibit same-sex marriage constitutionally. Four -- Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming -- ban it through state statute.