McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 15, 2014

Local residents speak out about supreme court ruling on Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — McAlester area residents spoke out on Wednesday morning about a federal judge’s ruling that sets aside Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern struck down Oklahoma’s ban on same sex marriage stating the majority view must “give way to individual constitutional rights.”

No marriages will take place immediately until state and local officials are able complete an appeal.

Some McAlester residents had their own views on the ruling.

Crystal McDaniel, owner of Legends and Co. hair salon in McAlester, said the judge’s ruling was a pleasant surprise.

“Pleasant surprise to have a minority voice supported in our state,” said McDaniel, who traveled to New York last year to legally marry her wife.

“Christ said, ‘Come to me all who are toiling and loaded down and I will refresh you,’” she said. “The homosexual community has been burdened by fear for far too long. Equality is a treasure deserved by all, especially living under a Constitution that saw the need for it so long ago.”

In his ruling, Kern said Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. He wrote Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed.

“It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

McDaniel agreed.

“I just feel it’s sad when someone has to demand you treat equally someone you don’t understand,” she said. “It should be simple to treat your neighbor as yourself, yet we emphasize that this person isn’t equal, therefore I’m justified to treat them in a way that allows them to feel not good enough.

“Churches across Oklahoma are guilty of showing their true colors when it comes to things they have zero knowledge of so therefore you mix their ignorance with their hatred and you get ‘Pray The Gay Away’ conversion therapy, she said.

“It’s painful and it’s, thank God, finally unconstitutional.”

Dave Gillespie, 68, of the Oak Ridge Acres area, said the judge needs to stay out of Oklahoma law.

“I believe marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman,” Gillespie said.

“That judge does not need to be interfering with our laws.”

Debbie Farden of McAlester said she thinks gay marriage is wrong.

“I don’t think it’s right,”  she said. “It’s supposed to be between and man and a woman. It’s been like that since the beginning.”

Stephanie Cook, 25, of McAlester, said she agreed with the judge’s ruling.

 “I don’t have a problem with gay marriage and now my two best friends can get married,” Cook said.

Debbie McDaniel, of McAlester, married Crystal in New York last year. She said her biggest concern about the issue is the younger generation.

“We have a generation of young people scared to say they are gay because of the bigotry in the Bible belt,” she said.

“I don’t believe those God-fearing people who are against same-sex marriage realize that hiding who you are eats you up from the inside.

“People that are against gay marriage see it as a way to be loyal to God. But God wants everyone to be at peace.”

State officials also weighed in on the issue.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General said the decision made by the judge is troubling.

“As the Supreme Court recently noted in the Windsor case, it is up to the states to decide how to define marriage, not the federal government,” Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt said.

“There is a case involving the State of Utah currently pending before the 10th Circuit that is identical to the case in Tulsa. The issue most likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and the outcome will dictate whether Oklahoma’s constitutional provision will be upheld.”

In another statement issued Tuesday, District 2 U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin said the voices of the governed are being disregarded.

“Our Constitution protects the sovereignty of states, and with today’s ruling, that right has clearly been violated,” Mulling said. “Oklahomans overwhelming voted nearly a decade ago to define in our state’s constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. Unfortunately we have yet again witnessed the voices of the governed being disregarded. Today’s ruling is disappointing and an unfortunate reflection of federal overreach.”

Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, agreed with Mullin about where most residents of the state stand on the issue.

“Oklahomans have overwhelmingly said they are not in support of gay marriage,” Condit said.

Asked whether the ruling could be overturned, he said, “I have no idea. I don’t second guess the federal system.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.