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June 26, 2013

Local couple finds reasons to be excited after DOMA ruling

State reps respond to possibility of gay marriage in Oklahoma

CHICKASHA — Aron Seymour is excited.

The Cement native has waited a long time to share the same rights all married couples enjoy, and after yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that could become a reality.

"I feel like anything is possible now," Seymour said.

Yesterday's decision effectively means the United States government will no longer be able to deny same-sex couples spousal benefits enjoyed by straight couples. This will take effect in all places where same-sex marriage is legal, but in states like Oklahoma the path is a little more arduous.

Seymour, who will start working as a sales representative at the AT&T store in Chickasha next month, recently proposed to his longtime partner, University of Science and Arts Graduate Brandon Pasley.

The two realize in order to marry, they will have to exchange vows outside of Oklahoma.

Although Seymour said he has actively tried to convince his partner to take up residence elsewhere, the two have remained in the area because of family and friends.

In order for the couple to take advantage of the 5-4 decision handed down by the Supreme Court, they would need to marry in a state where same-sex marriages are legal, return to Oklahoma and sue the state for the rights granted to them by the federal government.

It is a challenge for sure, but Seymour said although it's a process he'd go through, he doesn't think we will have to.

"There will be so many cases brought to the courts due to Oklahomans trying to change the past for a better equal future," he said.

Oklahoma is unlikely to join the 12 states and District of Columbia that have legalized same-sex marriage according to state Democrats and Republicans.

An amendment to the state constitution in 2004 defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. It also criminalized the action of issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

State Representative and Tuttle City Attorney David Perryman (D - Pocasset), said the ruling does not override Oklahoma's constitution. Nor does it require the state to provide Oklahoma benefits to same-sex couples, and a lawsuit may not be enough to change that.

"I think that the only way the state of Oklahoma could be named as a defendant in that type of lawsuit would be if the state of Oklahoma was administrating a federal program and denied those federal benefits," Perryman said. "The ruling simply has no effect on agencies of the state of Oklahoma, unless the state of Oklahoma is administering a federal program where spouses may have rights."   

Should that circumstance arise, Perryman said a surviving same-sex spouse could apply for death benefits or any other benefit that was payable to a heterosexual spouse and if denied the same-sex spouse could sue.

During this year's legislative session a resolution was passed reaffirming the language of the constitution, so the chances of Seymour and Pasley being able to marry in Oklahoma are fairly low.

"I don't see anywhere in our future that gay marriage will be legalized here given our constituency," State Representative Leslie Osborn (R - Tuttle) said. "The founding fathers never really addressed the issue of marriage and I feel like the government has become too involved in people's personal lives. We need to concentrate on fiscal issues in the state of Oklahoma and stay out of people's bedrooms."

State Representative Joe Dorman (D - Rush Springs) echoed this sentiment.

"I seriously doubt anything regarding this issue will change in Oklahoma given it would require a constitutional amendment," he said.

Despite the challenges that face them, family and friends will continue to keep Seymour and Pasley in the area.

"We actually met in Chickasha while he (Brandon) was working at a shelter in Chickasha," Seymour said. "We found love in a hopeless place."

The 35-year-old Seymour was 18 when the Defense of Marriage Act was initially passed, and although he said it's been frustrating at times living in Oklahoma, he has seen a good deal of change.

"It's been an uphill battle for equal rights, and we've been stuck here waiting for something to happen," Seymour said.

And now that things are happening, Seymour says he has no plans to leave the land of his birth.


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