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Gay Marriage In Oklahoma Begins And Some Varied Reactions

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The process of the first same-sex couple to marry in Cleveland County started with a squeak – the sound of the official stamp on a marriage license.

Kristen and Heather Dickey are now the first same-sex couple to marry in Cleveland County. The two have been together for over a decade, but Kristen Dickey says holding an official marriage license is pretty surreal.

“I honestly did not think that it would ever happen. I thought that we were going to have to go, one day, out of state and get married there, and it was sad to know that it wouldn't be recognized in our own state that we live in,” Kristen said.

The court clerk in Oklahoma's largest county says his office has begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case.

Oklahoma County Court Clerk Tim Rhodes in early afternoon said his marriage license department was bustling with activity and that couples were waiting in the hallway to receive licenses.

After the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear an appeal in the case, Rhodes said he had to wait until a stay was lifted by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The appeals court lifted its stay Monday morning.

Governor Mary Fallin issued a statement Monday afternoon criticizing the ruling, calling it “undemocratic and a violation of state’s rights. Fallin says the people's will has been "overridden by unelected federal justices, accountable to no one. She says she believes Oklahoma voters have a right to define marriage.

Fallin's full statement reads, "The people of Oklahoma have the right to determine how marriage is defined. In 2004, Oklahomans exercised that right, voting by a margin of 3-1 to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"The will of the people has now been overridden by unelected federal justices, accountable to no one. That is both undemocratic and a violation of states' rights. Rather than allowing states to make their own policies that reflect the values and views of their residents, federal judges have inserted themselves into a state issue to pursue their own agendas.

"Today's decision has been cast by the media as a victory for gay rights. What has been ignored, however, is the right of Oklahomans - and Americans in every state - to write their own laws and govern themselves as they see fit. Those rights have once again been trampled by an arrogant, out-of -control federal government that wants to substitute Oklahoma values with Washington, D.C. values."

Sally Kern, State Representative, said, "Oklahoma, or any state for that matter, should not have unelected judges who are not accountable to the people deciding what the laws will be. Oklahoma voters, at 76 percent, defined marriage a one man and one woman. I am calling on my colleagues and the governor to stand in unity that Oklahoma will let Oklahoma decide what marriage is and should be. Every child deserves a mother and a father, and only natural marriage provides that."

The Cimarron Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group, says the ruling by the U-S Supreme Court on same sex marriage reaches beyond licenses granted in Oklahoma.

Executive Director Scott Hamilton says out of state marriages, like the one he got with his partner in Connecticut five years ago, are legally binding.

“We will be treated the same way as any other couple. And, the property that I have or that he has when one of us passes will not be the same rigorous process that an inheritance might. To say that it’s a big relief would be an understatement,” Hamilton said,

Hamilton said he also expects this to have a positive economic impact on Oklahoma with the number of new weddings and maybe even gay and lesbian couples returning to the state.

But Hamilton urged caution. “Anytime that we do see a significant movement to equality we do get a backlash. We get threatening phone calls and letters and that kind of thing. I believe that we have progressed though, because following the Tenth Circuit’s ruling those kinds of calls were at a minimum.”

Hamilton says he also expects conservative church leaders to oppose this, but he also reminds everyone that the law does not force any clergy to marry anyone against their will.

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