Seventeen states led by Colorado and including Oklahoma have filed a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to answer a powder keg of a question — does the U.S. Constitution include a right to same-sex marriage?
The document calls on the high court to take up the cases challenging gay marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah, noting there are an “astounding” 89 cases ongoing throughout the nation challenging traditional marriage laws. Another four cases recently have been decided.
“There are scores of cases requiring thousands of hours to litigate the same legal question presented in this petition,” the filing states.
“These cases are divisive and costly, not only in terms of money and manpower, but in terms of respect for the democratic process and deliberation undertaken by millions of voters where the nature of marriage has recently been debated.”
The attorneys general of the 17 states listed in the brief are among the 31 states that have laws defining marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman.
In addition to Colorado and Oklahoma, the states listed are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
“Once resolved, the legal issues presented in the Utah and Oklahoma petitions are well positioned to provide the necessary guidance to the other states with traditional marriage laws,” the filing states.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision struck down Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional in mid-July. The Denver-based court had ruled in June that a similar ban in Utah is unconstitutional. The court stayed its opinion in both cases, pending expected challenges.
The Broken Arrow couple contesting the Oklahoma ban — Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin — on Aug. 27 filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to review the case. That brief came about three weeks after Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith asked the high court to reverse the three-judge panel’s decision.
Bishop is a Tulsa World editor; Baldwin is a former editor at the newspaper.
The latest brief, which was filed Thursday by the 17 states, doesn’t argue for a particular result, just a resolution to the legal question generating conflict, controversy and confusion.
The document notes that at the highest level, cases from Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia are seeking U.S. Supreme Court review. Cases in Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas are awaiting federal court decisions.
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday in cases from Indiana and Wisconsin. Nearly a hundred cases at the lower level from “an array of contexts” are being litigated.