When word emerged last year that an Oklahoma Republican legislator was considering the idea of getting rid of marriage entirely in the Sooner state rather than entertain gay marriage, it was easy enough to sort of chuckle and joke about how well they were taking it. After all, they were just venting steam. It’s not like they would actually go there, right?
Well, technically, no. But they managed to come up with something that might actually be worse.
In an effort to block the state’s involvement with gay marriage, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday (March 10) to abolish marriage licenses in the state.
The legislation, authored by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, amends language in the state law that governs the responsibilities of court clerks. All references to marriage licenses were removed.
So far, so … er … ah … well, right. So it would seem they went there. Except they didn’t.
Russ said the federal government is attempting to change the traditional definition of marriage, so his legislation would place the responsibility for officiating marriages in the hands of clergy.
“Marriage was historically a religious covenant first and a government-recognized contract second,” Russ told The Oklahoman.
The legislation has sparked controversy, both in the Legislature and with groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Oklahoma Democrats are concerned that the legislation will lead to a “Pandora’s box” of issues, including polygamy, once the government’s authority to regulate marriage is removed.
Americans United released a statement opposing the bill, saying it is biased against same-sex couples and nontheists, including atheists. Russ has been unapologetic in defending his exclusion of nontheists from the right to marry.
This is where they went.
“Oklahoma Lawmakers Consider Preventing All Marriage: Report”. The Huffington Post. 25 January 2015.
Horton, Greg. “Oklahoma Bill Would Give Clergy Power Over Marriage Licenses”. The Huffington Post. 12 March 2015.