A bill that would restrict the right to marry to people of faith and would mandate all marriage licenses be approved by a member of the clergy was approved by the Oklahoma state House on Tuesday.
The bill, approved by a Republican majority, now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
House Bill 1125, sponsored by Republican State Representative Todd Russ, is a radical measure that would end secular marriage licenses in the state. In addition, the bill would bar all judges and other secular officials from performing marriages in Oklahoma.
Russ claims the radical legislation is motivated by his desire to protect court clerks from having to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Russ says he doesn’t want these workers put in the position of having to condone or facilitate same-sex marriage.
Under the legislation, atheists and others not wanting to be married by a religious official could file an affidavit through the court clerk’s office claiming a common-law marriage.
Republican supporters of the legislation want to remove the state from the marriage process. Rep. Dennis Johnson, a Republican, said:
Marriage was not instituted by government. It was instituted by God. There is no reason for Oklahoma or any state to be involved in marriage.
Johnson and other Republicans are confused. For the record, marriage is a legal contract between two consenting adults, and as a legal contract it is governed by the state. A wedding, on the other hand, may or may not be a religious ceremony, depending upon the wishes of the couple.
If conservative Christians could only understand this simple and basic distinction, which in many ways mirrors the constitutional distinction between church and state, a great deal of time, energy, and taxpayer money could be saved, and used towards more productive ends.
As it stands, the legislation is thinly disguised anti-gay Christian bigotry, pure and simple. The bill is a naked attempt to force Christian theocracy upon the citizens of Oklahoma.
A toxic combination of anti-gay discrimination and discrimination against non-theists, the bill is emblematic of the dangerous and hateful nature of conservative Christianity in America.
(Large portions of this article were previously published here)