Atheists need not apply: A bill proposed by Oklahoma Republicans would restrict the right to marry to people of faith, and would mandate all marriage licenses be approved by a member of the clergy.
House Bill 1125, filed on Tuesday 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.
Sarah Jones, writing for Americans United, reports:
The lawmaker is unapologetic about the fact his bill would restrict marriage to people of faith. Concerning non-believers he (Russ) said:
“They don’t have a spiritual basis for a marriage and don’t want to have a clergy member or a priest or someone involved in the spiritual aspect, then they can file an affidavit of common-law marriage.”
Russ claims those not wanting to get married by a religious official could file an affidavit through the court clerk’s office claiming common-law marriage. However, as KSWO-TV reports Oklahoma does not currently recognize common law marriages.
In fact, Russ says under House Bill 1125 a marriage would have to be signed off by a preacher, minister, priest, rabbi or ecclesiastical dignitary. Which would seem to restrict the right to marry to Christians and Jews.The bill is ludicrous on many levels, and it would be laughable if it were not such a mean spirited attempt to prevent people from entering into a legal marriage recognized by the state.
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 is, House Bill 1125 is 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.
(Note: An earlier version of this post failed to give proper attribution to the work of Sarah Jones writing for the Wall of Separation blog at Americans United. Her post, It’s A Scandal, It’s An Outrage!’: Oklahoma Legislator Wants To Restrict Marriage To People Of Faith, was a primary source for this post. The author wishes to apologize to Jones for failing to give proper attribution, and salute her fine work at Americans United For Separation of Church and State.)
Oklahoma State Rep. Todd Russ (R)