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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Judge’s ruling keeps times a-changin’ for Oklahoma

    On Jan. 14, Judge Terence Kern of the U.S. District Court ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. According to one of the state’s constitutional amendments, only marriage between a man and a woman is recognizable in the state. However, Kern struck this provision down, saying that it violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by attempting to deny a specific group of people the governmental perks of marriage.

    Although the ruling will not be enforced until appeals have been heard, Kern’s decision is a step in the right direction. Denying citizens their basic right to marriage because of their sexual orientation should be a thing of the past. Recent attempts to block gay marriage are reminiscent of 20th century interracial marriage bans, which today’s more tolerant society looks upon with strong distaste.

    The 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia dealt with the state of Virginia’s ban on marriages between interracial couples. Those who ignored this ban were charged with committing a felony and could be jailed for one to five years.

    Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the Court’s opinion on the case, declaring the ban unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the 14th Amendment. Justice Stewart delivered a concurring opinion, saying, “It is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor.”

    Such should be the view on gay marriage bans, which make an act criminal based on sexual orientation. Legally, marriage between two people should not be banned simply because they are not heterosexual. All citizens deserve the same basic rights and protections regardless of their distinguishing characteristics. Our Constitution plays an important role in defining the marriage issue, providing guidance for the best course of action. According to Section One of the 14th Amendment: “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Despite this, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin disagreed with Kern’s decision, arguing that it ignores the votes of three-quarters of those in the state who wish to keep marriage solely between a man and a woman. Some believe that government officials should act according to their constituents’ views and existing law. Others believe that officials should make the wisest possible decisions regardless of the views of their constituents. Kern’s ruling is a good example of the latter, often called judicial activism. But in some ways, his decision to declare Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional is not radical at all. More states continue to allow gay marriage; Kern seemed to recognize this trend and made the best decision for the nation as a whole, looking at the well-being of 50 states rather than just one.

    While some disapprove of judicial activism, it has irrevocably shaped our nation for the better. Brown v. Board of Education, for example, was a case in which the majority of citizens in some states wanted the tradition of segregation to continue, but the Court ruled in favor of Brown as well as of African-American children everywhere. Though unpopular, this decision ultimately helped pave the way for African-Americans to improve their lives and reap the full benefits they deserve as citizens.

    Opponents of gay marriage should not be allowed to take away the basic rights of LGBT people to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Such denials were the reason for the creation of the Constitution and our representative government.

    The government’s role is to take into account all angles of an issue and attempt to see how all groups of people will be affected by its decisions. Supporting the narrow-minded opinions of those who fear and dislike gay rights now will only lead to more narrow-minded, prejudiced decisions in the future.

    Eleanor Ferguson is a pre-journalism freshman. Follow her @DailyWildcat.

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