UPDATE: On January 14, 2014, a federal judge in Oklahoma declared that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. The decision has been stayed pending appeal, but the ruling marks a step forward in the state. Thousands of same-sex couples in Oklahoma need the freedom to marry - here is the story of one great couple, Heather and Kasey:
On June 26, 2013, after a long day at work, Kasey Britt-Davis picked up the phone in her home in Moore, Oklahoma. She was delighted to hear the voice of her wife, Heather Britt-Davis from thousands of miles away in RC North Afghanistan. Heather, a sergeant in the Oklahoma National Guard had already been stationed overseas for seven months, and Kasey couldn't wait for her wife to come home.
"Guess where I'm going today after work?" Heather asked Kasey.
"Where?" Kasey asked, unaware that hours before, the United States Supreme Court struck down the central part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denied the critical federal protections of marriage to legally married same-sex couples.
"I'm going to fill out my new paperwork to list you as my spouse!" Heather said, explaining that because of the Supreme Court ruling, she and Kasey would finally be respected by the military as a married couple.
The Supreme Court ruling striking down the central part of DOMA had significant, near-immediate impacts for legally married same-sex couples across the country. Suddenly, all married couples could be considered married for all federal taxes. Americans in binational marriages could sponsor their foreign-born spouse for green cards. And, of course, military couples like Heather and Kasey could finally gain access to all of the military protections and benefits of marriage - retirement benefits, a military ID card, and health care.
When Heather returns from Afghanistan this month, she and Kasey will finally be able to gain spousal recognition on Kasey's military ID card. "When Heather said she was actually able to mark me down as a military spouse, I felt overjoyed," Kasey said. "Most people don't realize how important it is to be able to check a 'married' box versus a 'single' box when you are married to the love of your life. this is a huge step for us, and we can't wait to see what's next."
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Getting the military ID card was the latest victory for Kasey and Heather, who have seen their relationship evolve from friendship to roommates to girlfriends to partners to wives over the course of their adult lives.
They met while both women were still in high school, working at the local Sonic. "I knew the minute I met Heather that something was special about her," Kasey said. "I knew that she was going to be a big part in my life, and I couldn't wait to see what was in store for us."
Once they graduated, they found a place together that they shared as platonic friends for about a year. Heather went away to Fort Jackson South Carolina for basic training, and when she returned, they realized that their affections for each other extended beyond friendship. "We realized then that we were exactly what we had both been looking for," Kasey explained. "It was like we realized that what we were looking for was in front of us the entire time," Heather added.
The women shared their relationship with their family members in 2009, and after some time, both sets of parents and siblings grew to understand how important Kasey and Heather were to each other - that their love deserved the same respect and celebration that different-sex couples receive.
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In 2010, the couple took a cruise to the Bahamas, where Heather asked Kasey the question of a lifetime: Will you marry me? "I have never answered a question so fast in my life with nothing but confidence and pride," Kasey laughed.
Since Oklahoma did not extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, Heather and Kasey knew they couldn't legally tie the knot in the state. But they still wanted the chance to publicly declare their love and promise their commitment to each other. They had a unity ceremony in 2011 - with "the cake, the DJ, the catered food, the whole nine yards," Heather said.
"I think seeing Kasey dance with my dad, MSG. Danny Davis, really put me in awe," Heather said. "It made me think about how in love I was - how it couldn't get any more perfect. I didn't think I could love her more than that at that moment."
Shortly after the ceremony, Kasey and Heather found out that Heather was going to be deployed to Afghanistan for a year.
"We realized we didn't have anything tying us together if something were to really happen," Heather said. "We had always said a piece of paper would not make or break us, but seeing that Heather would be halfway around the world for a year, we knew that the piece of paper would be really important," Kasey added.
With Heather dressed in uniform and two of their closest friends by their side, Kasey and Heather trekked to Council Bluffs, Iowa and legally married before a judge on August 31, 2012.
"We said our vows, cried a little, and I got to say 'I do' in front of a real judge in a real courthouse," Heather said. "It's a day I'll remember for the rest of my life."
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The Supreme Court ruling was a wonderful victory - but it only went so far. As soon as Heather and Kasey step off of their military base in Oklahoma, they know that the state of Oklahoma - the state where they grew up, fell in love, and are now living - does not grant their marriage any legal respect. They hope that a ruling from a federal judge in January 2014 - declaring anti-marriage laws unconstitutional in the state - is upheld soon so that finally, they can be respected as a married couple in the state where they live.
"I can still go home every day and call her my wife, but having society and Oklahoma respect her as my wife would make me finally feel like we are 'home,'" Kasey said.
The women explained that even though they are respected by Heather's employer, the U.S. National Guard, Kasey's employer continues to view Kasey as single. Without the freedom to marry in Oklahoma, Kasey and Heather continue to see their marriage disrespected, and they face challenges, delays, and uncertainty when it comes to state taxes, home ownership, and what would happen if Heather was not employed by the U.S. military.
Kasey and Heather can't wait for the day when they can share a new, similarly triumphant phone call - a call where they're celebrating respect for their marriage in Oklahoma and nationwide recognition of their committed relationship.