LITTLE ROCK — The head of the Christian conservative group that spearheaded Arkansas’ constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage expressed concern about its future Tuesday after a federal judge in neighboring Oklahoma struck down that state’s gay marriage ban.
U.S. District Judge Terrence C. Kern of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma’s amendment violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause, calling the ban an “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit,” the New York Times reported.
“Obviously, that ruling is not binding on Arkansas … but it does cause me to have concern about the future of our amendment in Arkansas considering the fact that it’s being challenged in state court and the federal court as well,” said Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council.
Cox said he is not overly concerned about a slew of proposed ballot initiatives in Arkansas this year that would overturn the state’s gay marriage ban, which was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2004. He said he was concerned about “activist judges who take it upon themselves to overrule the will of the people.”
Cox said it was a matter of time before one of many challenges to gay marriage bans across the nation make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not these should be struck down on equal protection grounds or anything else,” he said. “I’m still confident the court’s going to be cognizant that voters in almost 40 states have voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
Jack Wagoner, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in both the state and federal court challenges to Arkansas’ marriage amendment, said the ruling by the federal judge in Oklahoma is part of a trend.
“Since the Windsor decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act) in June, there hasn’t been a decision that didn’t agree with the position we’re taking in our lawsuits,” he said. “They’ve just been falling like dominoes. We’ve had New Mexico and Utah and now Oklahoma just in the last couple of weeks.”
Wagoner said the decisions show that “the writing is on the wall” that same-sex marriage bans are on their way out. He said the rulings cannot be chalked up to judicial activism.
“The original rulings that were coming out were from more liberal, Democratic areas, and now we’ve got these decisions coming out in the red states too,” he said.
No trial date has been set in the Arkansas cases. Last month, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza denied a motion by the state to dismiss the state lawsuit and denied a motion by the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed same-marriages to proceed.