The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 26, 2013

Advocates at home celebrate Supreme Court ruling

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Kristi Balden was watching television Wednesday morning when a breaking news alert came across the screen.

The U.S. Supreme Court had shot down a key provision of the federal restriction on gay marriage, and in a second ruling, essentially struck down California’s ban.

“And I started screaming,” she said just a few hours after the landmark decision.

Balden’s son Christian, who lives in Minnesota, is gay. Their family and struggle for acceptance was profiled in an Enid News & Eagle article earlier this year. Here at home, Balden is director of operations for Enid LGBT Coalition, a service organization devoted to prevent bullying and suicide.

LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.

Read the family struggle for acceptance

She said that until Wednesday, only two of her three children were looked at equally in the eyes of the United States government.

“It means a lot to me that my federal government has validated that all my children have the equal right to marry the person that is the love of their life,” she said.

Balden said she immediately texted her son after hearing the news.

“He texted me back right away that he was in the process of getting dressed and he was putting on his Enid Pride T-shirt to wear today,” she said.

While the two decisions aren’t a full victory for those championing LGBT rights, Balden said it’s a step in the right direction.

“My hope is that it carries into people feeling more OK about being publicly supportive. I know sometimes there can be backlash in situations like this,” she said. “Anytime things change like this, it can unsettle the waters.”

In a public statement released Wednesday, Enid LGBT Coalition said even though it is not a political organization, it applauded the Supreme Court’s recognition of equal protection under the law.

“We believe that every time society moves closer toward acceptance and away from inequality, everyone benefits. Our hope is that the recent Supreme Court decisions serve to further the practice of acceptance, and celebration of diversity, not just in our country, but in our town,” the release stated. “Enid LGBT Coalition believes that through contributing to, communicating with and connecting with all members of our community, we can continue to build on this progress in Enid and northwest Oklahoma.”

Jaye Coffin, who chairs the coalition, said he hopes the decisions will prove fruitful for the movement.

“We still have a long way to go — there are 38 states that have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage,” said Coffin, who is transgender. “Hopefully, this will open the door for the rest of the country, and also give us a little step toward more transgender inclusion and equality for everyone.”

He watched the decision come across on Facebook and other social media. It’s a watershed moment for this generation’s civil rights fight, he said.

“It absolutely is. There are celebrations planned all over the country tonight,” he said Wednesday.