Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to prohibit the National Guard here from processing military benefits for same-sex couples is an embarrassment to the state and further damages Oklahoma’s national image.
It makes Oklahoma seem backwards and intolerant, hardly an image that can be used as a recruiting tool for new businesses and an educated workforce. It also makes Oklahomans seem mean-spirited and bigoted.
The decision, of course, was a political gesture, and this makes it even worse. Same-sex couples can sign up for benefits at federal facilities in Oklahoma so, in essence, Fallin is just making an anti-gay statement to pander to her ultra-conservative base of voters. If she can’t stop same-sex couples from getting benefits, at least she can inconvenience them, right? It’s ugly and petty.
The Pentagon recently announced same-sex couples in the military now qualify for the same benefits as heterosexual couples. The announcement came after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
But a Fallin spokesperson, according to media reports, said a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage passed in 2004 means the state can’t process benefits for same-sex couples married legally in other states.
Fallin’s decision, however, raises the issue of the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which mandates that the states must follow federal laws. Is Fallin looking for another lawsuit that pits Oklahoma against the federal government upon which the state is so highly dependent for money?
Oklahoma is now one of four states that are refusing to process benefits for military same-sex couples. The other states are Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, which also have laws banning same sex marriage.
The state’s drastic cuts to education in recent years, its high incarceration rates and political gestures like this most recent one by Fallin continue to do immense damage to the state’s national reputation.
What’s also clear is that it’s long past time for extremist right-wingers to give up the bigotry. Same-sex marriage is here to stay as more and more states incorporate equality into their legal frameworks. Oklahomans need to accept it.