By Darla Shelden
The Oklahoma City Cimarron Alliance Equality Center hosted an event celebrating the recent overturn of DOMA and Prop 8 by the US Supreme Court. The public was invited to join in solidarity with their fellow Oklahomans.
Ruled unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote, the Defense of Marriage Act barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states. California’s Prop 8 banned same sex marriage in that state. The justices ruled the private party defending the constitutionality of the statute had no standing to do so.
Cimarron Alliance Executive Director Scott Hamilton said, “First, this means we are recognized by the federal government as being a married couple. With that comes responsibilities, but also rights – over 1100 rights that before yesterday were denied to us.”
“Most important is Social Security survival benefits,” said Hamilton. “Because we’re both getting older, it’s a challenge making ends meet. To think of one of us dying, would just leave a horrible situation. What this does is it increases our comfort level, and that alone adds to the quality of life.”
Hamilton and his husband Wayne Johnson recently celebrated their 22nd year of being together. They were legally married in November 2009, in Bridgeport, CT.
“Oklahoma can’t forever say ‘we don’t’ care what the rest of the world does, we’re doing it our way.’ When ‘our way’ results in a loss of jobs, a loss of talented young people, and new companies not coming to Oklahoma, it will be clear the old way doesn’t work anymore,” Hamilton said.
Metro area leaders State Senator Al McAffrey, Representative Kay Floyd and Ed Shadid, Councilman and OKC mayoral candidate, shared in the emotional celebration.
Oklahoma City equality activist Bob Lemon said, “I love it! This is the best day of my life because it’s a day in which the highest court in the land has finally come out and said, as I’ve been saying for a long time, there’s nothing wrong with gay people. They’re not broken and they don’t need fixing.”
ACLU-OK Executive Director, Ryan Kiesel said, “We know today’s victories do not mean an end to Oklahoma’s hateful law that stands in the way of love, nor do they mean an end to other discriminatory laws that target Oklahomans for nothing more than who they love.”
“But these decisions do send a powerful signal to the LGBT community in Oklahoma and their friends and loved ones that change is coming. History will vindicate our struggle, and the day is not far off when we will more fully realize the promise of our Constitution,” Kiesel said. The ACLU of Oklahoma stands ready with our allies to ensure that day arrives with no delay.”
Attending with his partner of over 20 years, James Stewart, Wayne Clark said, ”In 2004 we sued the state of Florida for the right to get married, and we kept the suit until Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty Council sued us. We dropped the case and moved to Oklahoma. Now we’re going to find a convenient spot to get married and come back to Oklahoma and petition that it be accepted.”
Oklahoma City resident James Nimmo said, “The overturning of marriage discrimination by the Supreme Court has vindicated the 36 years my partner Don Chabot and I have spent together as two men sharing, supporting and strengthening one another through good and bad times.”
“How is that destructive to the social fabric,” Nimmo added. “Instead, it makes us another two threads in the patchwork quilt of American history and diversity. We will now get the legal benefits we’ve been taxed for.”
Married to local realtor Clayton Issleib in 2011, Oklahoma City attorney Mark Henricksen said, “When the Supreme Court in America ruled that equal protection applied to gay and lesbian citizens, that’s a remarkable change.”
“The Romer case and the Lawrence case found that there was no rational basis for discrimination,” Henricksen said. “ And this goes much further and says that gay people are entitled to equal protection as every other person in America. Where not where we need to be, but we took a huge leap today.”
Jim Roth, Chair, Alternative Energy Practice Group at Phillips Murrah law firm in Oklahoma City said, “Although the work towards equality is never over, there are encouraging moments like today, when after years of torment, toil and few signs of progress, the army can rest under a shade tree and look back upon the rough road behind us and see that progress is underway.”
Gene Gorfoth said, “The Supreme Court decision today means we’re one step closer to actually being considered a regular citizen in this country. We’re not there yet, but it’s the next step.”
Nathaniel Batchelder, Director of the OKC Peace House said, “The Supremes could not have so ruled had it not been for the 58 percent of Americans supporting marriage equality. Hats off to all who have pushed for this and all who continue pushing.”
Hamilton added, “It’s a new day for our country and not just for the gay community. This moves our entire society forward in being able to live and work together, and accepting one another for who we are.”
President Obama’s statement on the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/06/27/obama-administration-statements-supreme-court-s-doma-ruling.