OKLAHOMA CITY – By a 5-4 vote in the case of Obergefell vs. 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 Oklahoman's 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 Oklahoman's. 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 Oklahoman's, 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.