Tulsa Same-Sex Couples Celebrate Victory, Say Fight's Not Over
TULSA, Oklahoma - Same-sex couples are a step closer to being allowed to marry in Oklahoma. A federal appeals court ruled Friday states cannot prevent gay people from getting married.
Same-sex supporters celebrated in downtown at Tulsa’s Equality Center and called the decision a great victory but they also say the legal process is far from over.
Their commitment to each other is uncontested, but their marriage, in the state’s eyes, is non-existent.
“We know that we'll be together for the rest of our lives,” said Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin. “We have chores, we have jobs, we laugh together, we cry together, we fight together.”
Bishop and Baldwin have been together for 17 and a half years; they've been wearing their wedding bands since 2000.
In the middle of their relationship, Oklahoma voters decided, by a 3 to 1 margin, to ban same-sex marriage in Oklahoma.
“We're Oklahomans, our families go back multiple generations in Oklahoma, so we've always said there's no reason we should have to go outside of our home state to get married,” Bishop said.
The couple decided to fight for their right to marry and sued the state in 2004. Now, nearly 10 years later, they have something to celebrate.
“I hope that we get to actually get legally married before our lives end and it looks like that's going to happen,” said Bishop.
A federal appeals court in Denver found the ban on same-sex marriage in Oklahoma violates the U.S. Constitution, but not everyone is cheering the court's decision.
Former State Senator, James Williamson said, “The traditional concept of marriage as one man, one woman, that's been around for over 5,000 years should continue in Oklahoma since statehood.”
Williamson authored Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage. He said he doesn't believe the law goes against the constitution and said the issue will be a source of conflict for years to come.
As for Bishop and Baldwin, they're used to the backlash and said they find hope in the support from the community.
“Christians are some of our strongest supporters and the Jewish community is also a very strong support of us. So we have lots of support from the religious community,” Bishop said.
The ruling Friday is not law, it's on hold until the Supreme Court makes a final decision. As for when those court proceedings will happen, it's anyone's guess, but likely within the next year or so.