A same-sex marriage that began two years ago in Iowa ended in divorce court in Oklahoma in August — for a day.
Oklahoma County Special Judge Don Andrews signed the divorce papers Aug. 18, officially ending the lesbian couple’s troubled marriage.
The next day, the judge vacated the divorce decree “upon further review of the laws of the state of Oklahoma.” In his order, he pointed to a law on the books since 1997 that prohibits Oklahoma from recognizing another state’s same-sex marriage as valid and binding.
Deanne R. Baker filed for divorce from Julie L. Baker on July 30, less than two weeks after a federal appeals court agreed Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The Baker divorce case is an example of the confusion felt by many about the status of same-sex couples in current law.
Deanne Baker, 45, was happy to be divorced. On Facebook Aug. 18, she thanked “the people who supported the recognition of equality here in the State of Oklahoma!”
She was not aware the divorce decree had been vacated until The Oklahoman contacted her Friday.
“That is not cool,” the Tinker Air Force Base worker said.
“I spent $400 when it was all said and done. So, if I’m not divorced, I want a refund on my money,” she said.
She explained she thought she might be able to get a divorce because of the July 18 decision at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of same-sex marriage. She did not use an attorney.
Actually, no same-sex marriages are taking place in Oklahoma’s civil courts while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether it will take up the issue.
“I really think Oklahoma needs to, like, keep God and state separate,” she said. “It’s a civil contract. If people get married in another state and they’re straight, and they move to a different state, they can get divorced in that state. So why are you making it hard on us? It’s not right. We wanted equality.”
Julie Baker could not be reached for comment.
Unlike an infamous 2006 Tulsa County case, Deanne Baker and Julie Baker did not try to disguise in the divorce petition that they are both women. They used their full names and both the petitioner and respondent are referred to as “her” in the paperwork.
Both also were in the courtroom Aug. 18, although Julie Baker signed the papers and left before Deanne Baker went up to the judge.
Deanne Baker said the judge knew he was divorcing a same-sex couple. She said she even went back up to the judge a second time after the divorce was granted to ask how long Julie Baker had to wait to change back to her former name.
“He said, ‘As soon as I sign the paperwork, it’s a done deal,’” she recalled.
She also said the judge approved another lesbian couple’s divorce Aug. 18 before hearing her case. “I was, like, ‘Well, hot dog, about time,’” she said.
The judge declined to comment. In his order, he stated he granted the divorce inadvertently. He acknowledged in the order that the paperwork in the case indicated two women were involved.
Andrews heard the Baker case Aug. 18 because he was the the judge assigned to handle uncontested divorce cases that day.
Deanne Baker and Julie Baker can seek divorce again Sept. 11 before Oklahoma County Special Judge Lisa Hammond. If she refuses, they can appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Did you know?
Judge campaigns for position
Oklahoma County Special Judge Don Andrews now holds an appointed position, voted on by the district judges.
Andrews, of Oklahoma City, is campaigning to become an Oklahoma County district judge. His opponent is Jarrod Heath Stevenson of Edmond. Voters decide in November.
Andrews has raised more than $104,000 for his campaign, his latest contributions report shows. Stevenson has raised more than $18,000.