On Tuesday, January 14, many LGBT and equality activists received a big but gleeful surprise when U.S. District Court Judge Terence C. Kern ruled the Oklahoma state amendment limiting marriage as a "union of one man and one woman" unconstitutional at the federal level.
Judge Kern found this statement within the state constitution to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which has been in effect since 1868. Even though the Fourteenth Amendment has clearly been a part of our constitution for over a century, it has taken a considerable amount of time for this decision to come, given how the almost decade old ban became official in November 2004.
It's not yet sunny skies and smooth sailing in the Sooner state, however. Citing the halting of same-sex marriages in Utah, Kern has declared the ruling stayed pending appeal. This means that the opportunity for same-sex marriages in Oklahoma is not yet guaranteed in the near future.
If the same-sex ban is proved unconstitutional in both Utah and Oklahoma, it will be a hard fought and long awaited victory for the many LGBT members of these states, although the LGBT community still faces discrimination in many other fields and in many cases have no legal defense when discrimination occurs.
To back up this point, a study concluded that among homeless youth, 40 percent of them identify as LGBT, highlighting the high levels of discrimination still present that will have to be resolved, even if marriage equality is achieved.
Despite this, many activists are still optimistic and see the ruling as progress. A change such as this in the constitution to one of the "Bible Belt" states shows continued momentum from the progress that was made in 2013 and in previous years. This also leaves many hopeful that 2014 with be another step forward towards marriage equality in the United States, although marriage equality alone will not be enough to address the many problems still on hand for those who are a part of the LGBT community.
Photo: via hrc.org