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Oklahoma 2SLGBTQ+ advocate reacts to passage of Respect for Marriage Act

Nicole McAfee is the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, a local advocacy and organizing group for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
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Nicole McAfee is the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, a local advocacy and organizing group for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act, which guarantees federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples across the nation, earlier this week.

Nicole McAfee is the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, which advocates and organizes for the state’s 2SLGBTQ+ community. They were in Washington, D.C. when the president signed the bill. They say there was palpable joy in the crowd that gathered that day.

“To be on the ground in Washington, DC, with queer people from around the country and just see queer love affirmed and celebrated is really beautiful and exciting,” McAfee said.

While the new law guarantees every state in the nation must recognize both same sex and interracial marriages as legal, it does not guarantee the right to marry.

In an interview with CNN, Jim Obergefell, of the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which won the right to same-sex marriage, says he was not celebrating.

“I will say I'm happy that at least something has been done, something that we will have to fall back on should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell in the future, but this act, I find it curious that it's called the Respect for Marriage Act because this act does not respect LGBTQ+ community, our marriages, our relationships or our families,” he said.

NPR reports that while the bill makes attempts to support key Supreme Court decisions like Obergefell, it doesn’t prevent same-sex marriages from becoming illegal again in states that might oppose it if Obergefell is overturned.

Earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the Dobbs decision the court “should reconsider” decisions that legalized same-sex marriage or guarantees married couples have the right to contraception. That move spurred lawmakers to propose the Respect for Marriage Act.

On the local level though, McAfee said if there was ever a challenge to these protections as put into law by the Respect for Marriage Act, that Freedom Oklahoma would advocate and make sure folks are aware of their rights and are engaged with groups who do more direct litigation or representation.

“Our hope is that this passage does nothing but affirm protections, and that it's not something that we ever have to engage,” the said.

In the meantime, though, McAfee hopes that Oklahoma’s couples are taking this chance to celebrate and feel joy.

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Kateleigh Mills was the Special Projects reporter for KOSU from 2019 to 2024.
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