A federal appeals court has ruled for the second time that states cannot prevent gay people from getting married.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Friday has found a ban on same-sex marriage in Oklahoma violates the U.S. Constitution. In a Utah case, the court ruled June 25 that gay couples have a constitutional right to wed.
Lower courts struck down Utah and Oklahoma's voter-approved bans in December and January, respectively.
The rulings are the first at the appellate level since the U.S. Supreme Court changed the legal landscape by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013. They are likely to be appealed to the high court.
Gay marriage in both states is on hold until appeals are resolved.
Governor Mary Fallin issued the following statement Friday in response to a ruling from 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Oklahoma's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
"In 2004, voters had an opportunity to decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriage in Oklahoma. Seventy-six percent voted not to, and to instead define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. I was one of the many voters who cast my ballot in favor of traditional marriage.
"Today's ruling is another instance of federal courts ignoring the will of the people and trampling on the right of states to govern themselves. In this case, two judges have acted to overturn a law supported by Oklahomans. Their decision will be appealed and, I hope, overturned. As governor, I will continue to fight back against our federal government when it seeks to ignore or change laws written and supported by Oklahomans."
Gay rights groups are planning celebrations across the state. Two separate rallies were planned Friday evening in Oklahoma City, with other events scheduled in Tulsa and Norman.
A "Decision Day Gathering" set for 7 p.m. Friday night at the Mayflower Congregational Church in northwest Oklahoma City was expected to draw hundreds of people.
One of the event's organizers, Troy Stevenson of The Equality Network, says there is a tremendous sense of relief for members of Oklahoma's gay and lesbian community, but he also noted the case ultimately must be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Friday's ruling was put on hold pending any appeal, which means gay marriages won't immediately take place in Oklahoma.
The head of an organization that supports same-sex marriage rights is praising a federal appeals court's decision that struck down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage.
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, says the organization has been working on the gay marriage issue in Oklahoma for 14 years. He said he is surprised how quickly public opinion concerning gay marriage has changed since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.
Jenkins says he is excited that Oklahoma "will be counted among the places where all of its citizens are treated equally."
An attorney for Tulsa County's clerk says he disagrees with a federal appeals court that struck down Oklahoma's ban against same-sex marriage.
Byron Babione with the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom said Friday that the people of Oklahoma confirmed their belief that every child deserves a mom and a dad when they approved a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as a man-woman union.
The organization represents Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith, who was sued when she refused to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Babione says he's consulting with Smith and considering whether to appeal Friday's decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Babione says whether citizens are free to affirm marriage as a man-woman union will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
An Oklahoma couple that challenged a state ban on same-sex marriage is praising a federal court ruling striking down the ban.
The two expressed gratitude for the ruling that they say affirms that all people are equal under the law. A statement from the couple says the court understands what more people across the country are beginning to realize -- that gay and lesbian people are citizens who should enjoy the same rights as straight people under the law.
They say they look forward to seeing Oklahoma gay and lesbian couples who love each other and want their relationships recognized by the government take part in those rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is applauding a federal appeals court ruling that struck down Oklahoma's ban on same sex marriage.
ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel says the ruling represents a strike against what he calls a system of irrational discrimination that has stood in the way of the rights of loving and committed couples and their families. He says the case represents a landmark that will be heralded for generations.
The 10th Circuit previously ruled that Utah's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, joining an unbroken string of federal courts in striking down state bans on same sex marriages.