In The Know: Oklahoma same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a federal judge ruled that Oklahoma’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. You can read the full ruling here. Another federal judge rejected a Bethany pastor’s claim that the state’s license plates convey a religious message contrary to his beliefs. The Oklahoma Gazette reported on Oklahomans working to legalize and regulate marijuana use.

A report from the State Chamber of Oklahoma defended hundreds of millions in tax breaks going to the oil and gas industry. You can read the Chamber’s full report here and Oklahoma Policy Institute’s statement in response here. NewsOK energy reporters held an online Q&A on Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax debate. The OK Policy Blog showed how corrections officers have plummeted while the number of inmates continues to rise in Oklahoma’s prisons.

Oklahoma City’s interim schools superintendent Dave Lopez could become the district’s next chief operating officer when a permanent successor is hired. State Superintendent Janet Barresi has decided to scrap grade-level math assessments for middle school students who take higher-level courses. Lottery ticket sales in Oklahoma have steadily declined over the last three years. Democratic candidate for Governor R.J. Harris announced he is ending his campaign and endorsing Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans have completed a application. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog shares 7 reasons with Congress’s failure to extend unemployment insurance matters.

In The News

Oklahoma same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

A Tulsa-based federal judge on Tuesday ruled that an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that precludes same-sex couples from receiving state marriage licenses violates the U.S. Constitution. U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern ruled that Part A of the amendment, approved by Oklahoma voters in November 2004, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed,” Kern wrote. “It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: The full ruling by Judge Terence Kern

Judge rejects minister’s claim on Oklahoma license plate

A federal judge has rejected a Bethany pastor’s claim that the state’s license plates convey a religious message contrary to his beliefs. The plate depicts a Native American shooting an arrow into the sky. Keith Cressman, pastor of a Methodist church in Bethany, had sued the state over the image. “There is nothing about the image that suggests the man is praying or that the arrow he is shooting is sacred,” an order issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Fight continues to legalize and regulate marijuana use

Without a doubt, the prospect of legalizing marijuana in Oklahoma will draw opponents when a new measure is introduced during the next legislative session in February. Obvious critics will be law enforcement officials and conservative legislators, but they won’t be alone. Some predict the alcohol and tobacco industries also will join the fight. For decades, they have provided vices of their own to the American consumer. The fight in Oklahoma will resume when Sen. Connie Johnson (D-Forest Park, pictured) introduces a new measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in much the same fashion as Colorado did last year.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Report defends oil and gas tax breaks

A report from the State Chamber of Oklahoma’s Research Foundation on oil and gas policy comes short of making specific recommendations to lawmakers, but it does outline evidence of the benefit of continued tax breaks for the state’s largest industry. The report comes just a few weeks before the start of a new legislative session when oil and gas tax breaks are expected to be a major topic of discussion. The oil and gas industry accounts for the largest source of capital spending in the state with drilling expenditures totaling $11.7 billion in 2012, according to the report. Oklahoma currently draws 13.5 percent of its revenue from the oil and gas sector, which is similar to the share in the 1970’s and 80’s during the last oil boom.

Read more from Capital City OK.

See also: Economic Assessment of Oil & Gas Tax Policy In Oklahoma from Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce; STATEMENT: State Chamber study fails to make persuasive case for maintaining oil and gas subsidies from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oil taxes generate plenty of debate

Our NewsOK Energy team chatted with readers Tuesday about oil taxes. You can join our energy Q&A’s on the second Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about energy companies and developments across the state. Below is an unedited transcript of Tuesday’s chat.

Read more from NewsOK.

Graph of the Day: Corrections staffing way down while inmate population rises

Today’s Graph of the Day shows that the number of correctional officers staffing Oklahoma prisons has fallen by 24.5 percent since 2000 and by 20 percent just in the past five years, while the number of inmates continues to rise. In 2000, the state had 15,184 inmates in public prisons and 2,114 correctional officers, a ratio of 1 officer for every 7.2 inmates. By 2013, there were 2,685 more inmates but 518 fewer correctional officers; the prisoner-to-officer ratio had jumped to 12.2: 1. The drop in staffing has been especially severe since 2008: over the past five years, there has been a loss of 408 correctional officers.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Dave Lopez could be Oklahoma City school district’s next chief operating officer

Oklahoma City’s interim superintendent of public schools could become the district’s next chief operating officer when a permanent successor for Karl Springer is hired, The Oklahoman has learned. Several school board members have indicated they would support a plan to have Dave Lopez oversee the district’s $400 million operating budget in order to allow a new superintendent to focus solely on improving academics. The district is currently without a chief operation officer after the retirement of Jim Burkey.

Read more from NewsOK.

Barresi says she will do away with some math tests

State Superintendent Janet Barresi has decided to scrap grade-level math assessments for middle school students who take and test in higher-level courses such as algebra I, algebra II and geometry. The Oklahoma State Department of Education requested a waiver from the double requirement in November but has yet to receive a response, officials said. Because the spring testing window begins April 10, Barresi said she felt it was necessary to do away with the requirement immediately.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma lottery: Boon or bust?

Oklahoma’s lottery isn’t hitting the jackpot. Total revenue is basically flat since the state’s lottery began in 2005, and sales of instant tickets, or scratchers, have steadily declined over the past three years, according to financial information provided by the Oklahoma Lottery Commission. Scratcher sales were highest in the first year of the lottery, generating $111.3 million in fiscal year 2006. Instant tickets generated a low of $77.9 million in 2009; sales rose to $103 million in 2011 but had dipped to $89.4 million last year, lottery data shows.

Read more from NewsOK.

R.J. Harris, Democratic candidate for Oklahoma governor, drops out of race

R.J. Harris, a Democratic candidate for the Oklahoma governor’s race, has announced he is officially ending his campaign. Former Democratic candidate for the 2014 Oklahoma governor’s race R.J. Harris, 40, of Norman. Harris filed a statement Nov. 4 with the state Ethics Commission indicating he was raising money for a campaign. Harris said after careful thought he has decided to instead endorse the campaign of Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who formed an exploratory committee for the race on Dec. 17.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

Every school district when it says ‘Where has our funding gone?’ can say it’s gone into the pockets of horizontal drillers. Every prison guard who hasn’t been able to get a raise can point to the same thing.

-Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt, speaking about tax breaks for oil and gas drilling that have ballooned to cost Oklahoma more than $250 million this year (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of eligible Oklahomans that have completed a application – over 1/3 of those have enrolled in a new health plan as of December 2013.

Source:  Dept. of Health and Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

7 reasons why Congress’s failure to extend unemployment insurance matters

On Tuesday, the Senate failed to muster up the votes to pass an extension of unemployment insurance. Some 1.3 million workers lost their jobless benefits on Dec. 28 when an emergency program to help the unemployed expired. Two different bills came up for a vote. The first would have extended unemployment benefits for 11 months and paid for it by extending the existing 2 percent cuts to Medicare health providers another year, to 2024. The second would extended unemployment benefits for three months at a cost of $6.4 billion. Neither bill got the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and move forward.

Read more from Wonkblog.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.