Oklahoma State Rep. Todd Russ (below) has a solution to the pesky problem of gays trying to get married: outlawing secular marriage altogether.
Russ says he wants to “protect” court clerks from doing their jobs and providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which they’ve been legally able to do since October. Under his proposal, marriage certificates could be signed only by a religious official, who would then pass the certificate along to the clerk. Judges could no longer perform legal marriages.
While couples who didn’t have a religious official handy could still qualify for a common law marriage, this still means only church-sanctioned relationships could be legally, formally recognized.
“Marriages are not supposed to be a government thing anyway,” he said Wednesday.
Russ, a credentialed Assemblies of God minister, is upset with rulings that have supported same-sex marriage.
“There’s a lot of constituents and people across the state who are not through pushing back on the federal government for the slam down they’ve given us with Supreme Court rulings,” he said.
This measure is not only exclusionary to LGBT folks who may be barred from religious ceremonies, as well as atheists and others who wouldn’t opt for a religious marriage; it’s also redundant. Marriage equality legislation asserts that religious officials won’t have to marry same-sex couples in their churches if they don’t want to. Nonetheless:
He called his House Bill 1125 an example of “conscience legislation,” meant to allow people to exercise their religious values in good conscience. He compared it to Hobby Lobby’s case against the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, has also filed legislation concerning same-sex marriage. His bill seeks to prevent religious officials from having to “solemnize or recognize any marriage that violates the official’s conscience or religious beliefs.”
The executive director of the pro-LGBT group Oklahomans for Equality, Toby Jenkins, said more than 3,000 same-sex couples have been married in Oklahoma since October — and certainly a higher number of different-sex couples have filed for legal marriage recognition, too. Russ’s bill won’t have any of it.
He expressed disappointment with the two bills involving same-sex marriage.
“I was so hoping that our legislators would attend to the duties of our state and big issues like education, health care, dealing with crime and crumbling infrastructure,” he said. “I hoped they would make that their focus, but once again it sounds like Oklahoma legislators have decided to pick on a portion of our population.
“For 23 years, at least one anti-gay bill has been introduced every session. I was so hoping 2015 would be different.”
Rep. Russ has said that the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality “stuck it down [their] throats.” But 23 years of trying to take rights away from one population? That’s far more forceful than asking a clerk to sign a piece of paper.