Written by Helen Grant, Edited by Colin Newman
Dear Oklahoma, while I drank some Liberal Juice for breakfast, (that’s 4 apples, 2 rainbow carrots- totally gay, I know – a generous handful of green and red kale, and spinach all juiced up), I read the news this morning. It would appear, judging from Facebook outrage, that Mary Fallin has somehow screwed up the state again by denying homosexual Guard members their military family benefits, at least through Oklahoma state run facilities.
Look, forcing people to go out of their way to a federal installation to receive their hard-earned benefits is a real pain in the ass, no pun intended, but how shocked should we be that Mary Fallin thinks that striking out against gay marriage is a political winner? Not only does our governor not have an independent streak, she doesn’t even have an independent speck. Mary Fallin is good at reading a teleprompter and smiling for the camera. As long as the state GOP is dominated by people who think gays are disgusting sinners and as long as the GOP runs the state, that is the tune she will dance to. Oklahoma did ban same sex marriage after all. And since that kind of intolerance is in abundance in Oklahoma, to be sputtering mad to the point of ALL CAPS OUTRAGE seems to me more like spontaneous emotional diarrhea and less like actually doing something about the issue.
It’s also not entirely clear that she isn’t just following the law; Oklahoma did indeed ban gay marriage, by a vote of the people, by a huge margin. No one really organized against it, but that’s not really the point. As a random facebooker noted:
“Yes. Legally, she is required to uphold Oklahoma law & utilizing state employees & resources to do something prohibited by Oklahoma law is illegal. She has actually done a prudent thing by refraining. Suppose someone sued the State for using state facilities and resources to do something prohibited by state law. If they succeeded, which is clearly probable, it would render those applications null & void. The people receiving those benefits could lose them and potentially be required to pay them back pending the outcome of long & costly litigation in the state & federal courts. As I said, she is being prudent in redirecting them to a federal facility thereby avoiding the problem altogether.”
So, it’s possible that our elected leader did something legally required by a vote of the people, but it just happens that the vote of the people was totally wrong and morally indefensible. Because of this, our super Pro-Military, Pro-Veteran state is refusing to provide benefits to people who have sacrificed mightily to protect rights that they don’t even get to fully enjoy. Ain’t that a bitch.
For the record, I think that failing to recognize marriages performed in other states is unconstitutional under Article 4 Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. This is exactly the sort of situation the whole idea of “full faith and credit” was meant to prevent. Imagine the uproar if tomorrow Massachusetts decided that all marriages performed in states without same sex marriage were null and void. It’s almost like I would go from being a full citizen in Oklahoma to being disenfranchised in Massachusetts as soon as I crossed into the state, I wonder who could possibly relate to that.
If you read about these things with resignation, if you don’t vote, if you think things can never change and will never change, Mary Fallin isn’t the problem. You are.
We tend to harp on this from time to time, but Oklahoma was not always so very “conservative” (although I don’t think people who call themselves conservative today actually have much of anything to do with the conservative political tradition). Oklahoma’s constitution was so radical that Theodore Roosevelt, today remembered as one of the great progressives, nearly vetoed statehood because of it. Oklahoma has always been conflicted place, caught between Northern prairie utopianism, Western libertarian isolationism, and Southern radical traditionalism. We are all of those things and none of them. Oklahoma has somehow managed to be on both sides of almost every great social controversy of the last 120 years. People ask me what has changed. That’s an easy one: we surrendered.
I don’t believe this whole “right side of history” stuff; I agree that we’re right, but I don’t agree that positive change is inevitable. That’s an insult to the people who fought and died to create actual lasting change. As long as there are urban districts that don’t record as many votes as suburban districts 1/3 their size, we’ll lose. As long as people move away after school so they never have to be around anyone who disagrees with them, we’ll lose. You can’t sit around and wait for the Arc of History to Bend Towards Justice all day long. This state isn’t that big. Folks in North Carolina started working to move the state to the left in the 90s, now they’re a certified battleground state.
None of this is saying that you have to be a full-time activist. I love my activist friends, but I find them exhausting. What we really need from you is a commitment to do what you can in your own life to model the values you hold and to courageously and persuasively defend them. And please, for the love of humanity, vote every chance you get.