County clerks in Oklahoma report ebb in same-sex marriage licenses, but system going smoothly


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AP Supreme Court writer Mark Sherman explains the high court's action that clears the way for an immediate expansion of same-sex marriage by turning away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. (Oct. 6)

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for gay marriage expansion across the US with their latest order turning away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit sam-sex marriage. (Oct. 6)

TULSA, Oklahoma — The pace of same-sex couples requesting marriage licenses has slowed a bit, court clerks around Oklahoma said Tuesday, a day after gay marriage became legal in the conservative state.

Clerks in several counties contacted by The Associated Press said they were relying on guidance from local district attorneys about how to handle the requests but hadn't gotten any instructions from state officials. None reported any instances of same-sex couples being turned away.

After an initial rush Monday in Oklahoma County, the state's largest, things were calmer, said Mike Sullivan, the chief deputy court clerk.

"We really didn't have lines," Sullivan said Tuesday. "It seems to be kind of a normal day. We're probably a little busier than average."

About 120 marriage licenses were issued by Tuesday in the state's largest two counties that include Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but that included applications from both gay and straight couples.

A Tulsa-area couple, the lead plaintiffs in the near-decade lawsuit against Oklahoma's constitutional ban on gay marriage, exchanged vows Monday evening 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.

Outside Oklahoma's metropolitan areas, requests were more sporadic.

Ottawa County, which borders Kansas — where some same sex-couples seeking licenses were turned away Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court action — issued two or three same-sex marriage licenses by Tuesday.

In Pittsburg County, Court Clerk Cindy Smith said the southeastern Oklahoma county had issued two same-sex marriage licenses and all had gone smoothly.

But the Supreme Court's decision rankled some in the state, where 76 percent of voters had backed the ban in 2004. At least two state lawmakers said Tuesday that they would work during the 2015 legislative session to counter the court's decision.

It was unclear, though, whether Oklahoma could overturn what was done at the federal level. A spokesman for Republican Gov. Mary Fallin — who had said the court's inaction was effectively an attack on states' rights — deferred comment to Attorney General Scott Pruitt. A spokesman for him did not immediately comment Tuesday.

One state lawmaker said supporters were working with lawyers and looking at their options but declined to say on what grounds they could base a legal challenge.

"I don't want to let the genie out of the bottle just yet," state Rep. Sally Kern said Tuesday.

State Sen. Josh Brecheen indicated in a text message to the AP that the draft of his bill "centers around the idea of voluntary covenant marriage with a religious liberties aspect, as a constitutionally protected right." He declined to give specifics.

Among the first same-sex couples to exchange vows Monday were Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, a couple for nearly 18 years and the lead plaintiffs challenging the state ban. At their wedding ceremony on the Tulsa County courthouse steps, they kissed and hugged in front of dozens of supporters and family members.

"It is a great day to be gay in Oklahoma," Baldwin proclaimed. "It's an even better day to be married."

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