The Freedom to Marry in Oklahoma

Winning Marriage: October 6, 2014

Same-sex couples began marrying in Oklahoma on October 6, 2014 after the United States Supreme Court denied review of a federal legal case in which a federal judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Oklahoma is unconstitutional.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • 1975: The Oklahoma legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples.  
  • 1996: The Oklahoma legislature passes an additional state statute declaring that Oklahoma will not respect marriage licenses between same-sex couples, even if they are legally issued in another jurisdiction.
  • November 2, 2004: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Oklahoma push through Oklahoma Question 711, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Oklahoma Constitution.
  • November 3, 2004: Same-sex couples and private counsel file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Oklahoma, Bishop v. Smith. Read the initial complaint
  • 2004-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Oklahoma take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • January 14, 2014: After the Bishop v. Smith case was left pending for nearly 10 years, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern rules in favor of the freedom to marry. The judge issues a stay on the ruling pending appeal, so same-sex couples are not immediately allowed to receive marriage licenses. The ruling is immediately appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Read the ruling. 
  • April 1, 2014: Across the Sooner State, same-sex couples and their supporters come together to form Freedom Oklahoma, the broad-based coalition and public education campaign dedicated to winning marriage for same-sex couples in Oklahoma.
  • July 18, 2014: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirms the freedom to marry in Oklahoma, upholding Judge Kern’s ruling. Marriage opponents seek review of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the ruling
  • October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies review of the marriage legal cases, bringing the freedom to marry to Oklahoma and paving the path to marriage in a total of sixteen states.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Freedom Oklahoma was the grassroots public education campaign to build support for the freedom to marry in Oklahoma.
  • The Equality Network is the organization based in Oklahoma that lobbies for pro-equality legislation and public policies in the Sooner State.
  • Oklahomans for Equality is an organization seeking equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and families through advocacy, education, programs, alliances, and the operation of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.

Audio from the 10th Circuit Hearing on Oklahoma's Marriage Ban