Tulsans React To Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage
TULSA, Oklahoma - The landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act was met with cheers by the LGBT community in Tulsa. They gathered Wednesday morning to watch the decision come down.
The party was still going on Wednesday afternoon at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center.
Gay rights activists say the ruling legitimizes their relationships, but critics of same sex marriage say it will barely be felt here in Oklahoma.
It didn't take long for cheers to erupt and the champagne to flow at the Equality Center.
"I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime," said Patricia Paterson.
Paterson and Gloria Galasso have been a couple for more than three decades and were legally married in California in 2008.
For years, they say they've felt like outsiders in their own country, because their relationship was not officially recognized.
"It makes you feel like a second class citizen, like you really don't have the rights of a citizen of the U.S.," Paterson said.
They say Wednesday's announcement by the Supreme Court is something they'll never forget.
"This is a recognition that, yes, our marriage is the same as anybody else's marriage," Paterson said.
According to an attorney who works with the Equality Center, the ruling means same sex couples who are legally married in another state, but now live in Oklahoma, are now eligible for some but not all of those federal benefits.
"It's a huge step in the right direction, because there are 1,100 federal benefits that are now available to legally married couples that have been previously denied," said Mike Redman, with the Tulsa Equality Center.
"Well my reaction is mostly relief," said former State Senator James Williamson.
Williamson is the author of Oklahoma's constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman. He said the ruling will have little impact in Oklahoma, and he's pleased the Supreme Court did not tell the states how to define marriage.
"That's very consistent with my belief that states have the right to define marriage. It's always been a state issue," Williamson said.
Gloria and Patricia say the decision means everything, and they hope critics of same-sex marriage learn to accept it.
"The tide of history is changing, and I know it's scary and I know it's hard for people to understand, but you probably know someone who's gay, even if you don't know you know," Galasso said.
The Equality Center is putting on a presentation Wednesday night at 6 o'clock. Their attorney plans to discuss what legally married gay couples should expect from this ruling.