In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a pair of decisions that have far-reaching effects on same-sex marriage.
The court ruled that married, same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits, and by declining to decide California’s Proposition 8 case, it effectively allows same-sex marriage in that state.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act was struck down 5-4, extending benefits for same-sex couples who were married in states that had been allowing gay marriage. The court also provides the Obama administration executive power to broaden other benefits through executive action. The majority of justices ruled DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment by seeking to deprive personal liberty.
In the Proposition 8 case, the ruling essentially sent the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, “with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction” – meaning the trial court decision, which struck down the law, will stand.
Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriage, and in fact has passed countermeasures indicating it will not do so. But one local lawmaker agreed the SCOTUS decisions may mean new state legislation could be in the works soon.
“I think we’ll probably have to tackle the issue very soon,” said Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee. “It won’t be anything I’ll introduce – we only have 12 Democrats left in the Senate – but I know it will come up.”
Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, said the Legislature has already addressed the marriage issue.
“The Supreme Court decision strengthens states’ rights,” said Brown. “We dealt with [same-sex marriage] in 2010. We passed a marriage act defining it as between a man and a woman. I guess we can visit the issue again, and recite the definition again, but the law is in place.”
Jim Bynum, chairman of the Cherokee County Democrat Party, said the ruling was more about individual rights than a ruling on marriage.
“I don’t think it’s a ruling on gay marriage or non-gay marriage,” said Bynum. “It’s about the individual rights of the people of this country. It has nothing to do with sexual preference or how you choose to have an orgasm. Why would you discriminate against a person about a religious moray based on the Old Testament as interpreted by a primitive people more than 2,000 years ago? People change, the U.S. Constitution changes. Our framers knew that and expected to change. It’s a dynamic document. Liberty and individual freedoms are what’s important.”
Shannon Grimes, chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party, said that in kicking the issue back to the states, the Supreme Court made the right decision.
“There is no constitutional authority for Congress over marriage without using the broadest sorts of interpretation that are explicitly counter to intentions when our Constitution was drafted,” said Grimes. “There is no constitutional prohibition of states legislating about marriage, though I myself wonder why anyone would want the government involved in marriage to begin with. From a Christian perspective, marriage is a covenant between husband, wife and God. When and how did we start letting government add itself to that sacred covenant? As best I can tell, it’s largely due to financial and tax advantages that people have welcomed government involvement in marriage.”
Grimes prefers government to stay out of the marriage issue.
“But if we are going to have government involved in marriage contracts, then those contracts must be equally protected by the law, no matter my own opinion on someone else’s ‘marriage’ – just like other contracts, particularly at the federal level,” said Grimes.
Local residents Bri and Cherokee Lowe were married legally in Iowa in 2010, but choose to live in a state where their marriage is legally invalid.
“We are still living in Oklahoma because we want to fight these fights, as exhausting as they can sometimes be,” said Cherokee. “I am very excited that DOMA got struck down, but I am unclear on how this will affect us.”
Cherokee believes the rulings are the first step in what is bound to be a long, but crucial, process.
“It’s not as simple as women being able to vote,” said Cherokee. “This has ramifications in every area of our lives, from adoption of our children to insurance and beyond. I told Bri I think it is going to take at least six months to see how much this affects us. As it is, I think everyone is unclear on how it will. Even taxes will be affected. What I would like to see happen is just that Oklahoma will finally recognize our union as a ‘real’ marriage.”
The Press asked its Facebook friends to weigh in on the decisions. For the most part, area residents who weighed in seemed to favor the move.
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