A local gay rights advocate hailed the U.S. Supreme Court's twin rulings regarding same-sex marriage as significant victories for justice and gay rights on Wednesday.
The Rev. Scott Hamilton, an associate pastor of Church of the Open Arms UCC, an Oklahoma City church affiliated with the United Church of Christ denomination, said the rulings represented important strides for same-sex couples across the country.
“This is the greatest victory in terms of equality that our country has seen in a very long time,” Hamilton, who also serves as executive director of the Cimarron Alliance, a gay advocacy organization, said Wednesday.
“If we believe that marriage is a cornerstone of our society, then we should celebrate that all the way around,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the heart of the matter is that the federal government has denied same-gender couples numerous rights that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for years.
He said momentum to quash Oklahoma's same-sex marriage prohibition will build upon the Supreme Court's rulings because the ban's demise will ultimately mean greater economic opportunities for the state. Hamilton said large corporations searching for cities in which to establish their businesses consistently look for communities where all of their employees feel safe and welcome.
“How long can we be people who just stand still while the rest of the world obviously marches on?” Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who is gay, said he and his partner were married in Connecticut four years ago.
Meanwhile, several state faith community leaders expressed their disappointment in the court decisions and declared that while the nation's highest court may be “the law of the land,” it does not supersede the laws of the Lord when it comes to defining marriage.
Methodist, Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic leaders in Oklahoma said the court's decisions will not dissuade them from defining marriage as between one man and one woman, based on Scripture.
“They may adhere to the laws of the land, but I adhere to the laws of God,” the Rev. Robert Hayes Jr., bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference and Indian Missionary Conference, said of Supreme Court justices.
“I took an oath and was consecrated that I would uphold the laws of the church. The United Methodist Church defines marriage as an act between a man and a woman.”
The Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; the Most. Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; and the Most Rev. Edward Slattery, bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa, shared similar sentiments.
“While it is disappointing that the Supreme Court's decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act fails to protect the institution nationwide, we take heart knowing that no government body can redefine what God Himself created in marriage as one man and one woman,” Jordan said.
Coakley said: “We as Catholics reaffirm that no court decision can recreate reality or change the truth about marriage, and we mourn for what will likely be lost for many as a result of this decision — the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman and the freedom that comes from living in that conviction.”
Slattery in Tulsa said he “grieved” that the “cultural understanding of marriage has shifted so drastically.”
Nonetheless, Slattery said, “Marriage is not a societal construct, but is rather an institution given by God and written in the laws of nature, established at the creation of the world. With this in mind, no government power has the authority or ability to redefine the essence of marriage.”
Hamilton said he predicts the pair of rulings will embolden the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to challenge “within the year” Oklahoma's constitutional amendment effectively banning gay marriage. The measure was approved by voters in a statewide election in 2004.
“I believe today's ruling will galvanize Oklahomans. It will embolden (same gender) couples to stand up for their rights,” he said.
Hayes, too, said the implications of Wednesday's court rulings likely will play out in the months to come.
“Time will tell what net effect this will have on Oklahoma and the culture, yet God's people will stand firm in the days ahead grounded in the truth of the Scriptures,” he said.
The Rev. George Young, senior pastor of Holy Temple Baptist Church, said he thinks the court rulings were fair and just.
“Whether or not I agree with someone's lifestyle, I think it was unfair (Defense of Marriage Act),” Young said.
He said people of faith will now have to consider how their faith and the government can coexist.
“If nothing else, it may be time for people to reassess how you reconcile your submission to government rulings and your faith journey,” he said.
State Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, who is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, said he is particularly concerned about the court's ruling against Proposition 8 which was approved by a majority of California voters.
Like Hamilton, he predicted that there will be legal challenges to Oklahoma's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and he said the Supreme Court's ruling on Proposition 8 could mean “we'll be in the same position as the Californians are in right now.”
“What you're saying is the state government and the ‘will of the people' are irrelevant,” Fisher said.
“We're on a collision course as to who is to determine what is right and wrong. Is it going to be people in their communities or is it going to be the federal courts?”