Bishop v. Smith

AU's Role: 
AU's Involvement Began: 
March 2014
Status: 

In November 2004, Oklahoma amended its state constitution to limit the state’s recognition of marriage to heterosexual marriage and making it a crime to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. The amendment was supported with religious arguments and appeals to scripture. In response, two lesbian couples sued to invalidate the amendment.

After nearly a decade of litigation, the federal trial court held that Oklahoma’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. The state appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

In March 2014, we joined with the Anti-Defamation League and a broad array of religious and cultural groups to submit an amicus brief in support of the couples. We argue that the marriage ban violates both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, for several reasons. First, history and campaign materials demonstrate that Oklahoma passed its same-sex marriage bans to entrench one religious tradition’s definition of marriage in law. Second, religious communities vary in their opinions as to the question of same-sex marriage. Third, marriage bans are not justified by the goal of protecting religious liberty; to the contrary, invalidating these marriage bans would protect the religious liberty of traditions that embrace marriage equality.

The court heard the case in April 2014 along with another marriage equality case, . In July 2014, a month after issuing a similar ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert, the court held that Oklahoma's marriage ban violates the fundamental right to marriage.