OK House Gives Marriage Solely to Clergy

OK House Gives Marriage Solely to Clergy March 12, 2015

The Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill, HB 1125, that removes the government entirely from issuing marriage licenses. The bill would instead have clergy, judges and retired judges only submit marriage certificates after the fact to the state.

Oklahoma would stop issuing marriage licenses under legislation passed Tuesday afternoon by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 1125, by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, would instead require those officiating marriage ceremonies to file after-the-fact “certificates of marriage” with court clerks’ offices. Alternatively, couples could file affidavits of common law marriage.

Russ said his bill is intended to “protect” county court clerks who do not want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“This takes them out of the trap,” he said.

Somewhat ironically, the bill removes from statute language limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Other marriage restrictions would remain unchanged.

Opponents, most of them Democrats, said the bill would create a scenario in which Republicans will have legalized same-sex marriages even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the lower court rulings the bill seeks to counter.

Supporters of HB 1125 said it fittingly removes the state from the marriage process. “Marriage was not instituted by government,” said Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan. “It was instituted by God. There is no reason for Oklahoma or any state to be involved in marriage.”

Except the state is already involved in a thousand different ways and this bill does nothing to change that. There are undoubtedly hundreds of benefits bestowed upon married couples embedded into state law, as there are in every state and at the federal level. All this bill does is narrow the number of people who can issue a marriage license, which would still have to be signed by the proper officials in order to be legally binding.

This is the exact opposite of what should be done. Marriage is a legal contract and should be taken completely out of the hands of the clergy. In order to be married, all you should have to do is get a license, sign it and file it with the government. If you then want to have a ceremony, regardless of whether it is a religious one or not, you can then do that, but the person who solemnizes or performs that ceremony should have nothing to do with whether the marriage is legally recognized or not. Clergy should not have any state power to make a marriage official.

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