Post submitted by Bo Suh, HRC Digital Media Intern.
A same-sex couple in Oklahoma had been together for almost 20 years when they finally decided to get married in California. Unfortunately, they never made it – Kim Woodard passed away before he could marry his partner, Jerry Custer.
According to Tulsa World, the couple had everything planned out: they had their plane tickets, wedding rings, and new clothes ready for the wedding that they could not have in their home state. But on July 23, three months before their planned wedding date, Woodard passed away from a liver disease.
Oklahoma does not recognize any same-sex marriages, including those from other states. In July, the U.S. District Court for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the state’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional in Bishop v. Smith. The case has been appealed and has reached the Supreme Court, which will be back in session October 6. The Supreme Court is under no obligation as to which case - if any - it chooses to hear on appeal.
The Tenth Circuit ruling gave Woodard and Custer hope that they could get married in time, but the court stayed the ruling, meaning same-sex couples could not yet get married in Oklahoma. It was not enough time for Woodard, whose condition worsened after spraining his ankle a week before the couple planned to fly out to California.
Instead of experiencing the joys of a wedding, Custer had to attend the memorial service of his lifelong partner. Woodard’s death certificate was a harsh reminder of the couple’s unrecognized relationship.
“I lived here with him for 20 years,” Custer told Tulsa World. “On relationship, I had to put down: friend.”
For more information on the status of marriage equality across the country, visit hrc.org/marriageequality