Oklahoma law forcing couples to marry out of state

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. - It's the day Shanna and Justin Aranda just couldn't wait for.

The two Oklahomans from Moore are getting married in the historic Arkansas tourist town of Eureka Springs.

But they didn't choose to get married here because of the town's beauty, its charming bed and breakfasts or its friendly people. They're here because they can't get married in Oklahoma.

"I can't think of anywhere other than Oklahoma where we couldn't have gotten married," said Shanna.

So what's stopping them?

Oklahoma law S43-123.

First written in 1910, it's better known as the Remarriage and Cohabitation law.  

The law says any Oklahoman who gets divorced has to wait six months to marry someone else. 

Shanna was divorced after a lengthy court battle three months ago.

"We have a family member who is very ill, so we may not have the six months," she said.

"We were tired of waiting. We wanted to be together," Justin said. "We had been together for two years."

And if you think Shanna and Justin are alone, think again.

Eureka Springs has another name -- the wedding capitol of the south.  

At least a dozen places here, including the local wildlife park, host weddings -- many of them couples from Oklahoma getting around that very same law.

"I would say that it has helped the town.  It definitely has," said Susan Misavage who owns The Angel at Rose Hall, another bed and breakfast that hosts more than 200 weddings a year.

"I've had some guests that have said this my second marriage, or not my first marriage, and have said they can come to Eureka and get married much more quickly," she said.

Misavage believes the Oklahoma law helped build Eureka Springs and says getting rid of the law might tear it down.

"I would definitely think that it would have an effect on the economy of the town, and other businesses, as well as myself," she said.

On average, about 200 people go to the Carroll County courthouse in Eureka Springs every month to get a marriage license. It's estimated, 75 percent of them are from Oklahoma.

"If I can't get married at home in my church, then I want to get married somewhere pretty," she said.

With the Oklahoma law giving the Arkansas town such an economic boost, would lawmakers consider repealing it? Oklahoma State Senator Jim Wilson says probably not. 

"It's like one of those laws that says you have to have a lantern in front of your car when you drive down the road," said Wilson. "We just never repealed it."

While Wilson admits it's outdated, he says it's one of those morality laws Oklahomans usually don't like to get rid of. 

And that's not all: the law doesn't just prevent recent divorcees from getting married in other states, it also says the newlyweds can't live together when they come back to Oklahoma.

An attempt to do so would be a felony.

Attorney David Keesling says that part of the law hasn't been enforced in decades.

"If you look at the trends across the country, Oklahoma is one of the few states that still has any prohibition against remarriage," he said. "I mean any prohibition."

Still, that doesn't concern Shanna and Justin.

They've found a love stronger than the law.

What do you think of the law that can't stop love?  Should it be repealed? Go to Justin's Facebook page and let him know.

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