Oklahoma

Tulsa couple who challenged gay marriage ban marry on courthouse steps

Mary Bishop, left, and Sharon Baldwin, right, celebrate following their wedding ceremony in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Bishop and Baldwin were the lead plaintiffs who challenged Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, shortly after 76 percent of Oklahoma voters approved the ban. Sue Ogrocki, AP

Mary Bishop, left, and Sharon Baldwin, right, celebrate following their wedding ceremony in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Bishop and Baldwin were the lead plaintiffs who challenged Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, shortly after 76 percent of Oklahoma voters approved the ban.  Sue Ogrocki, AP

Mary Bishop, left, and Sharon Baldwin, right, celebrate following their wedding ceremony in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Bishop and Baldwin were the lead plaintiffs who challenged Oklahoma‘s ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, shortly after 76 percent of Oklahoma voters approved the ban.

Updated: 8:00 p.m. CDT

TULSA, Okla. — Clasping bouquets of purple and pink roses and lilies, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin accomplished Monday a task nearly a decade in the making: becoming legally married in Oklahoma.

In a ceremony on the Tulsa County Courthouse steps, just as rush-hour traffic was bottling up downtown, the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Oklahoma’s constitutional ban on gay marriage exchanged vows over honking horns and an occasional police siren. They kissed and hugged in front of dozens of supporters and family members, and the crowd applauded wildly when the union became official, with some blowing bubbles at the happy couple.

“It is a great day to be gay in Oklahoma,” Baldwin proclaimed to the crowd shortly after the nuptials. “It’s an even better day to be married.”

Bishop and Baldwin’s wedding Monday came after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up appeals from five states, including Oklahoma, seeking to preserve their bans. The Supreme Court’s decision effectively made such marriages legal in 30 states, up from 19 and the District of Columbia.

The two, a couple for nearly 18 years, began challenging Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. They had rushed only a few hours before the ceremony to the courthouse to secure a marriage license.

“This is the dream day; it’s a day we’ve been looking forward to,” Baldwin said at the clerk’s office. “We’re looking forward to no longer being second-class citizens.”

The Supreme Court’s decision rankled some in the conservative state, where 76 percent of voters had backed the ban in 2004. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said the court’s inaction was effectively an attack on states’ rights.

In Oklahoma City, more than 20 couples planned to wed Monday night during staggered ceremonies at the Mayflower Congregational Church in northwest Oklahoma City, and hundreds were expected at a rally at the headquarters of the Cimarron Alliance, a group dedicated to securing equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals.

Court clerks in several Oklahoma counties said they issued licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, including Cleveland, Comanche, Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

Tulsa County issued about 45 licenses Monday, although that figure included all couples, gay and straight. Staffers there said couples were lined down the hall to get licenses around the time the office closed.

Judge Jane Wiseman, of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, officiated Bishop and Baldwin’s ceremony. Afterward, Wiseman, who is up for retention in the November election, said that to not do the ceremony because of the political risk would have been the “cowardly” way out.

One same-sex couple who had beaten Bishop and Baldwin to the courthouse decided to wait to get their license until the women got theirs.

Bill Owens had tears in his eyes as he watched the clerk sign off on Bishop and Baldwin’s paperwork and got emotional again when it came time for the clerk to process the documents for his license with Josh McCormick. Owens said he thought this day would come, but that it would take at least a decade to 20 years more in Oklahoma.

“I can say I have a husband,” Owens said slowly, letting each word sink in.

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