The City Sentinel

Joyful Oklahoma gay rights advocates applaud High Court’s controversial marriage decision

Darla Shelden Story by on June 27, 2015 . Click on author name to view all articles by this author. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
From left: Troy Stevenson, Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director (at podium) smiles during a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality ruling on June 26.  With him are Marty Coltrane, Brett Baldwin, Jim Roth, t. Sheri Dickerson, Mark Henricksen, Freedom OK Chair, Rev. Neill Coffman, and Michael Clark President of OKC Pride.  Photo by Darla Shelden

From left: Troy Stevenson, Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director (at podium) smiles during a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality ruling on June 26. With him are Marty Coltrane, Brett Baldwin, Jim Roth, t. Sheri Dickerson, Mark Henricksen, Freedom OK Chair, Rev. Neill Coffman, and Michael Clark President of OKC Pride. Photo by Darla Shelden

by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – By a 5-4 vote in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United State Supreme Court ruled on Friday (June 26) that the rights and privileges of marriage extend to same-sex couples wishing to marry in all 50 states. The outcome triggered words of praise and joyful celebrations from long-time advocates of “marriage equality.”

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (Oklahoma) commented, “The Court’s ruling today brings our nation one giant step closer to more fully realizing the promise of equality and justice for all. The fundamental right to marry who you love and build a life and family together is now a permanent and inextricable fixture of our nation’s highest law. Years from now the idea that anyone would be denied this fundamental right to marry will seem absurd, but the significance of today’s ruling will continue to ring true for ages.”

In a prepared statement, the former Democratic state representative continued, “Today we remember the struggles and sacrifices that made today’s ruling possible. While our nation’s laws tend to evolve towards greater equality and justice, it does not happen by accident. As we celebrate we are mindful that injustices persist and the struggle felt by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Americans, and in particular LGBT youth, is a very real. We must transform the joy of today into the grit we will no doubt need to guide our nation towards true equality in the future.”

Members of organizations pressing for the outcome were delighted with the outcome.

Troy Stevenson of Freedom Oklahoma said, “Today, we stand on the shoulders of giants. From the heroes of Stonewall to Harvey Milk to LGBT leaders of today — generations have put their blood, sweat, and tears into this historic victory. And thanks to the sacrifices of many the dignity of marriage is now the right of every American. Make no mistake; in the arena of marriage, this victory is absolute and irrevocable.

“However, our work is far from complete, and our movement must be stronger than ever. For until full and lived equality is reality for all, we will not stop fighting.

“Freedom means freedom for everyone, and as long as our trans sisters and brothers are denied dignity under the law; as long as our youth are legally subjected to the abuse of so-called ‘conversion therapy;’ as long as being queer means you can be fired from your job or thrown out of your home – right here in Oklahoma – we will continue to fight everyday – for all Oklahomans!”

Nathaniel Batchelder of Oklahoma City’s Peace House told The City Sentinel newspaper, “For forty years I’ve said sexual orientation is just a characteristic, like left-handedness, and everyone will come around one day. It seems as though they finally are.”

Tom Guild, emeritus professor at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in Edmond, offered a personal testimony on the impact of the ruling. In comments provided to this reporter, Guild said, “When Dr. Joan Luxenburg and I presented our research entitled, ’20 Years After Stonewall: Legal and Political Movement in Gay Rights,’ at the Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Meeting in 1989, it was literally a pipedream to envision a day that Marriage Equality would be the law of the land in all 50 states.

“The opportunity to use hatred and invective against GLBT people for political advantage is gradually ending. I’m so pleased that the SCOTUS came down on the side of equality, equal protection, due process, and fair treatment. There are still miles to go, but hatred lost and love won the day.  In 1989, we couldn’t quite see how the dance would end. The chair of my academic department at UCO said that I didn’t deserve the Outstanding Research faculty award and that he was ‘uncomfortable’ with my research on human rights.

“Now we know, it ended with a standing ovation for the majority of the SCOTUS, love, and equality.  We still need to work on creating a more perfect union.  The country took a giant step forward to fulfill its promise to afford ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

Oklahoma state Democratic Party Chair Mark Hammons commented:

“This morning, the Republican-led Supreme Court has decided, once and for all, that marriage equality is a legal right to all citizens. In a historic decision, written by a Republican justice, we can no longer deny that all citizens shall be afforded equal rights under the law.

Many Oklahomans have waited decades for this day to come and many believed it would not happen in their lifetime.

“The Oklahoma Democratic Party believes that marriage is an important sacred union. We view marriage as a matter of faith and personal commitment and conscience. It is important to focus now on the economic challenges that face Oklahoma families.”

Two members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives joined the chorus of praise. State Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said he applauded the decision on “marriage equality. It is my hope that with the ruling Oklahomans will use it as an opportunity for unity and not for divisive political conjecture.

“Real leadership is finding a way to unite people regardless of whether one disagrees with some parts of another’s lifestyle. At the end of the day we are all Oklahomans. Our strength is in our togetherness not our separateness.”

His colleague, Emily Virgin of Norman, hailed the outcome because “same-sex couples will finally be treated as equal under the law and now have the constitutional right to marry the person they love. My hope is that now the Legislature will move beyond this settled issue and focus on adequately funding education, extending health care to more Oklahomans, on criminal justice reform, on helping our cash-strapped counties cope with the damage they sustained during the torrential rains in April and May, our desperate needs in the area of mental health, and the myriad other critical issues facing Oklahoma.”

By Friday evening, those supporting the decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, were celebrating at large gatherings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

A gathering of around 100 people celebrating the US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality was held at the Freedom Oklahoma Equality Center in Oklahoma City.  Photo by Rena Guay

A gathering of around 100 people celebrating the US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality was held at the Freedom Oklahoma Equality Center in Oklahoma City. Photo by Rena Guay

Married one year ago, Oklahoma City residents Christopher (left) and Nathan Mancil attended the marriage equality victory rally held at Freedom Oklahoma Center on June 26.  Photo by Darla Shelden

Married one year ago, Oklahoma City residents Christopher (left) and Nathan Mancil attended the marriage equality victory rally held at Freedom Oklahoma Center on June 26. Photo by Darla Shelden

Corey Kehn (right) waves the Gay Pride flag with his partner Benjamin Ault during the Freedom Oklahoma marriage equality victory rally.  Photo by Darla Shelden

Corey Kehn (right) waves the Gay Pride flag with his partner Benjamin Ault during the Freedom Oklahoma marriage equality victory rally. Photo by Darla Shelden

Oklahoma transgender attorney Brittany Novotny speaks during the rally to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage nationwide.  Photo by Rena Guay.

Oklahoma transgender attorney Brittany Novotny speaks during the rally to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage nationwide. Photo by Rena Guay.

Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU Oklahoma speaks to the crowd during the marriage equality decision day gathering at the Freedom Oklahoma center in Oklahoma City. Photo by James Nimmo

Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU Oklahoma speaks to the crowd during the marriage equality decision day gathering at the Freedom Oklahoma center in Oklahoma City. Photo by James Nimmo

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