First Marriage Amendment Lawsuit Filed in Oklahoma, More Expected to Follow

Four women file the first challenge to a recently passed batch of marriage initiatives.
( [email protected] ) Nov 05, 2004 03:40 PM EST

Traditional marriage supporters celebrated the passing of marriage initiatives in 11 states Tuesday but didn’t have to wait long before opponents in Oklahoma retaliated.

Two lesbian couples filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa seeking to reverse the recently approved state constitutional amendment that preserves the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman and its entailed benefits.

They also want the court to declare unconstitutional the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which allows the state to reject out-of-state gay marriages. Over 37 states have approved DOMA.

The four plaintiffs are Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin of Broken Arrow and Susan G. Barton and Gay E. Phillips of Tulsa. According to the suit, Bishop and Baldwin have been living in a relationship for eight years, while Barton and Phillips were joined in a civil union conducted in the state of Vermont in 2001.

Sen. James Williamson, R-Tulsa, the principal author of the state question, said it is not the first time same-sex marriage supporters have challenged a state’s marriage laws.

"The radical homosexual groups have mounted court challenges to these types of laws all over the nation. They did it in Louisiana just recently just after they passed their amendment," Williamson told the Associated Press. "This is their usual strategy to try to overturn the will of the people by court fiat."

"It is because of the fear that this may be overturned by federal courts that the president has pushed for the national constitutional amendment,” added Williamson.

Although the Federal Marriage Amendment, backed by the Bush Administration, was blocked in the Senate in June, conservatives and Republicans are still considering the possibility of reintroducing a similar legislation in the future.

Williamson said he is confident that the amendment will survive the challenge but noted the possibility of the case going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, a non-partisan coalition rooting for traditional marriage laws, said more lawsuits challenging state marriage initiatives and DOMA laws will soon follow.

"This is just the beginning,” Daniels said. "We fully expect a tsunami of litigation designed to strike down marriage in different states across the country -- including every state where voters approved state DOMA initiatives on Tuesday night."

An Alliance for Marriage press release referred to a similar ongoing case that challenges the constitutionality of California marriages laws.

"The marriage amendment drafted by AFM was introduced with bi-partisan support in the Congress over three years ago," he said. "Our efforts to let the people decide the future of marriage in America preceded this election -- and will continue so long as activists strive to overcome public opinion by striking down our marriage laws in court."

Daniels said the only solution to the debate over same-sex is passing a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage.

"Ultimately, only our Federal Marriage Amendment will protect marriage -- while leaving all issues of benefits to the democratic process in the states," he concluded. "AFM believes this centrist approach embodied in our amendment offers hope of a democratic solution to the debate that will be forced on America as a result of activist judges."