The Woodward News

January 21, 2014

Ruling on same-sex marriage ban welcome news for some

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Recently, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern struck down a 2004 law adopted then by 75 percent of Oklahoma voters which declared marriage in the state would only consist of one man and one woman.

Kern stayed his decision, to allow for a certain appeal of the case. That means that homosexual couples still cannot get married here until the matter is decided.

Still for some, the ruling came as welcome news.

Woodward resident Billy Johnson moved recently to the Woodward area with his partner and has found the community very accepting.

Nevertheless, he championed Kern's decision because he believes all human beings have rights in this country and should be able to enjoy the same benefits as any other.

"I am glad for the fact that when we moved here, my partner's company would not allow same sex marriage benefits in a state that did not allow same sex marriage," he said. "I just think it would be nice to get the same benefits an anyone else who makes a commitment to family."

Kern's decision drew criticism from the governor, and other elected officials in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin issued a written statement accusing Kern of undermining the will of Oklahoma voters who passed the gay marriage ban by a 3-1 margin in 2004.

Locally, the issue becomes more personal and seems to be less a question of hotly debated politics and more a question of humanity, according to the Reverend Mary A. Davis.

Davis, the St. John's Episcopal Church of Woodward Vicar, said the sign on the church means what it says.

"Our sign says 'We welcome you,'," Davis said. "It doesn't say 'We welcome you unless you are this or that...', it says all are welcome."

According to Davis, in Oklahoma, where same sex marriages still cannot be performed, the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma has set up a process by which same gender couples can have their commitment blessed.

In 2012, the Episcopal Church decided during its national convention to  support the marriage of same gender couples.

Davis personally supports gay and lesbian couples but also understands that others may not agree.

Nevertheless, Davis believes her commitment is to all people.

And maybe that is why this issue can become just as touchy at the local level, because it is personal.

According to United methodist Church Senior Pastor, Shannon Davis, nationally, United Methodist Church leadership have not changed the church's position on same sex marriage.  

"In the United Methodist Church, we say a couple of things; all persons are people of sacred worth and we believe that God loves all people regardless," Davis said. "But we also know that the Scripture says that homosexuality is a sin."

According to Davis, the United Methodists do not ordain homosexuals not do they perform unions of same gender couples.

Also committed to his flock, Davis understands the issue can be divisive and for that reason chose to simply say that he stands behind what his church organization has decided on the issue.

For Woodward County Commissioner, Tommy Roedell, the issue is less about the personal nature of a man's own religion or belief and more about the right of states to make their own decision.

"There are so many things the federal government gets into that they have no business getting into," Roedell said. "I think the people of Oklahoma spoke and it is an issue best handled by the states. Then, if you live in a state that has a law you don't like, you can move to a state where you like the law they have no matter what side of the issue you're on."