BROKEN ARROW — A Broken Arrow couple says they are encouraged by a Massachusetts judge's ruling that the federal law banning gay marriage is unconstitutional.
Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop have been together for nearly 14 years. In 2000, they took part in a commitment ceremony.
Baldwin and Bishop, along with Tulsans Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, filed a federal lawsuit in November 2004 challenging the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act and the Oklahoma ban on gay marriage.
"We have hope that judges all across the country who have same-sex cases before them will take courage from this ruling to do what's right," Baldwin said.
On July 8, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro in Boston ruled that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause and interfered with a state's right to define
Although the ruling is not binding on other federal courts, it could serve as a precedent in the lawsuit filed in Tulsa federal court by the four women, Baldwin said.
"We hope that those judges will look at the Massachusetts judge's logic and rationale in his ruling on the equal protection issue," Bishop said.
Michael Jestes, executive director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, a nonprofit organization that opposes same-sex unions, said the ruling out of Boston comes as no surprise.
"I don't think this issue is ever going to go away. The minority is going to challenge it all the way to the Supreme Court," Jestes said.
"We believe that it is constitutional and that it is in the benefit of all Americans to recognize the value of a man and a woman being married."
Same-sex couples can marry in New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut and the District of Columbia.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver dismissed a portion of the two Oklahoma couples' lawsuit in June 2009, finding they lacked standing to file suit.
The four women filed an amended complaint in August to address the appeals court's concerns.