Representative Kern Gets Gay Marriage Bill Out of Committee

Representative Kern Gets Gay Marriage Bill Out of Committee February 20, 2015
Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern’s HB 1599 passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee this week. The vote was 5 to 3 in favor of putting the bill on the House floor.

If it becomes law, HB 1599 would have four effects. I am going to put my comments in bold to help you follow the thinking on this.

1. HB 1599 would prohibit the expenditure of state monies for “any activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.”

The Oklahoma legislature clearly has the power to determine how state monies will be apportioned. There is a real possibility that this part of the bill would survive court challenge. 

2. HB 1599 requires that any Oklahoma state, county or city employee who takes actions that would “officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license” would lose “their salary, pension, or any other benefit” that is funded by Oklahoma tax monies.

This is broader than just state-appropriated monies. It takes in any funding for salaries, pensions or other benefits that come from local taxes, as well. The legislature has the power to determine how Oklahoma tax monies may be spent. Whether or not it has such sweeping powers to determine how local tax monies may be spent is questionable.

The legislature also has the power to allocate salaries, pensions and benefits to state employees. The question that will almost certainly arise if this bill becomes law is whether or not this particular use of that power is discriminatory. 

3. HB 1599 requires that state courts dismiss challenges to the “any portion of the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act (HB 1599) with an award of costs and attorney fees to defendants.”

In my opinion, this is a violation of the separation of powers on which our government is built. I also think it is a violation of the First Amendment right to petition the government. 

4. HB 1599 mandates that judges who violate “this act” will be removed from office.

5. This is not an effect of HB 1599, but it is important to note that it has what is called a “severability clause.” A severability clause means that if the courts strike down one portion of the bill, the rest of the statute will still stand.

Now that HB 1599 is out of committee, it is, in legislative parlance, “on the floor,” referring to the “floor” of the full House of Representatives. The next step in its passage will be to get it on the House agenda where it can be brought to a vote of the full House.

Whether or not Representative Kern will succeed in getting this bill onto the floor agenda and then getting it called up for a vote is a matter of internal House politics. This has a great deal to do with the push and pull of what is happening with other legislation and how the various members align themselves on this issue. It is an internal, out-of-sight bit of legislating.

If HB 1599 comes to a vote of the full House, and if it passes the full House, it will then go to the Senate, where the Senate author will have to put it through the same process, all over again. If it passes the full Senate without amendments (unlikely) it will go to the governor, who has the power to veto it.

If it is amended in the Senate, it must come back to the House and, unless Representative Kern accepts the Senate amendments, would go through a conference process. If she accepts Senate amendments, HB 1599 would be voted on again by the full House. If the bill goes to conference, it has a lot of hurdles to get over before it can be voted on again. A lot of bills die in the conference process.

If it gets through the conference process, it must then be put back on the agendas of both houses, and be brought to a floor vote in both houses. If it survives all that, it still has to go to the governor, who can veto it.

Each of these steps is more complex than it sounds here. Each step has more variables than I can discuss in a blog post.

It is no small accomplishment that Representative Kern succeeded in getting this bill out of committee. She is a determined, hard-working legislator who does not attack or harm her colleagues.

If HB 1599 does not come to a vote of the full House before the end of the legislative day on March 12, it can not be voted on this year. That does not mean the bill is dead. It can be brought up for a vote next year.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few weeks.

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27 responses to “Representative Kern Gets Gay Marriage Bill Out of Committee”

  1. This is just another political grand stand and a waste of the taxpayers money. Even if it makes it into law, which is unlikely, it is by all measures unconstitutional. If SCOTUS rules in favor of same sex marriage. this bill cannot discriminate against those seeking a license. The only way would be for the state to stop issuing all marriage license. I am sure the people in the state would love that. Sounds like a five year old saying if you don’t play by my rules, I am taking my ball and leaving.

    • The only 6 year old logic I see, Tom, is thinking you can redefine language. And, no this is not about civil rights. It is about behavior and preference.

      • AnneG, I’d like to address your comment because
        I’ve seen it many times in other threads and it gets at me first as an English major and second as a lawyer.

        First, we redefine language all the time. All human language is made up – that’s the nature of language – and we add words and stop using words and change the meaning of words to suit our needs all the time.

        Second, in enacting and writing down our our laws, our legislators usually define and redefine significant legal terms, for the purpose of administering our laws. For example, our written laws expressly define “stock” and “home” and “fishing” and “citizen” and “spouse” and other words in ways that might conflict with your personal beliefs. But if you think it through, its the only way to effectively administer law.

        There are valid arguments for an against expanding our marriage laws to include same sex couples, but this isn’t one of them.


        • Certain words have distinctive meanings. One of the hallmarks of Marxism is a manipulation of language. George Orwell, in 1984, called it NewSpeak. That is what is attempted.
          I’ve also watched certain, self-assigned elites, especially in academia, begin to redefine society. The first time I noticed was in the early ’70’s in a class at a large public university. This was a freshman discussion section and the question was,”who is middle class here.” I am the only person who raised my hand. 90%of those other students were middle class.
          I have also seen the change in the definition of family to, whoever you want. As well, instead of husband or wife, spouse. Now, there are fits over gender-normative definitions of male and female. Give me a break.
          Words mean things. When you twist the definition around, you change the thing you are talking about. No wonder people are confused.
          No, marriage is and always has been between a man and a woman. Period, even in polygamous societies. It predates the state and is understood universally until very recently, in only a few places.
          There are many reasons in favor of traditional marriage and one is to prevent the destruction of society and civilization, which is where we are headed. Manipulation of marriage is part of that attempt.

  2. Send this to the 5 that voted for this bill. Maybe they should go back to civics class.

    Founder of the Republican Party,
    Father of the Bill of Right, Father of the Constitution, 4th President of the
    United States, James Madison said:

    “Churches are not the
    guardians of the civil liberties of the citizens of these United States.”

    “The validation of the
    constitutional separation of church and state is forever recorded in our nation’s
    brief history by the numerous attempts of ecclesial bodies (Danbury Baptist
    Association) to replace that amendment with their theology.”

    “The constitutional
    separation of church and state was established to forever keep from our shores
    the religious strife which has stained the soil of Europe with the blood of the
    innocent for centuries.”

    • Worse than that local and federal courts seem to be starting witch hunts and kangaroo courts to destroy anybody who dares to dissent from their new promotion of homosexuality. It will take a civil war to stop same sex marriage now.

      • Thinking … do you mean point 2 above about the forfeiture of benefits, pensions and salary? That would be what we call a “penalty clause,” and yes, it is common to put a penalty clause in legislation that forbids certain actions.

        It is not required, but without a penalty clause, such legislation would be toothless; sort of like an attaboy/attagirl/ya’ll-be-careful-now kind of thing.

        A penalty can be just about anything: a fine, imprisonment, civil action; you name it. In this case, it’s forfeiture of certain goods — benefits, salary, pension — that result from employment with the state.

  3. Sally Kern “doesn’t attack or harm her colleagues?” Really??

    Didn’t she say this about you and half the country in April 2011?

    “Women usually don’t want to work as hard as a man… women tend to think a little bit more about their family, wanting to be at home more time, wanting to have a little more leisure time.”

    Leisure time!!!

    • I remember this vote very well. It was on a bill to remove protections from discrimination from African Americans and women.

      The bill almost did not come to a vote because the author was out of town due to family illness and there was difficulty finding someone else to handle it on the floor. Finally, they came up with an African American Republican who was willing to do it. He was amply rewarded for selling out his own people later.

      We voted on it late at night after several long days of dealing with contentious issues. Everyone was tired. I debated against it, and then left the floor because I was so angry. This was one of those votes that make me glad I’m not there anymore and don’t have to be part of these things.

      I did not hear Representative Kern say this. I went back onto the floor to vote against the bill. The first I knew about her statements was the next day when a reporter called me, asking for my reaction to her debate. I remember asking “Did she really say that?” and he played it for me.

      She apologized to the whole House later for these statements. She’s not the sort of person to apologize unless she genuinely regrets something.

      As for what I said, that she doesn’t attack or harm her colleagues, that is true. This debate and what she said in it, do not even address that statement. You know nothing about what it’s like inside a legislative body.

      Now, any further attempts to make Representative Kern the issue will be deleted. I gave you plenty of really serious objections to this legislation in my post, btw.

  4. Note: Comments attacking Representative Kern personally rather than talking about the issues will be deleted. For those of you who try to drag her family members into this: Shame on you.

  5. In another post about a priest getting marries you called it “human stuff.” That’s all gay marriage is, human stuff. People fall in love and want to be with each other, sometimes forever. As you said, “this is a personal and, on a human level, understandable, situation made of normal human emotions.” And, in many places, just like the priest, committed gay people have to sneak around and lie to their families, and “the months of lying and sneaking must have been miserable for both of them” also applies.

    Now, should the federal government, or your state government, rightly acknowledge that all people should have the right to marry the person that they love and want to commit their life to, you are seriously willing to penalize people for doing their jobs and enabling people to have committed, loving relationships as married partners?

  6. How can you post an article like this and not expect people to totally discredit her. I’m hoping she represents Oklahomans like ISIS represents Islam. How would you expect people not be totally outraged by this hater.

    • I don’t allow personal attacks on this blog. It sometimes strains the brains of people who are accustomed to taking positions based entirely on attacking individuals rather than discussing issues. But if they stay around and try to think instead of defame they usually learn they had the ability to do so all along and just weren’t using it.

      • I can understand why you don’t want a discussion of the issues to degenerate into personal attacks, but this situation is less revelant to the bills being proposed (which, BTW have no chance of surviving or even passing) than to the phenomenon of religiously inspired hate that would never be condoned by the founder of that religion. I forget who it was who said good people will do good, evil people will do evil, but for good people to do evil, that takes religion. That is why politicians should not turn to religion in trying to do what is right.

  7. Marriage is about the community endorsing a certain type of, presumably sexual, relationship. Central to the concept of marriage law is that it requires everybody under that law to endorse the relationship AS MARRIAGE. No Christian can in good conscience do this with regard to 2 men or 2 women. It is simply not the same thing as husband and wife. Marriage is central to the Christian understanding of sexual morality, and has been for centuries. I cannot understand how anybody can be forced to go against a central tenet of their religion by having a law force them to pretend 2 men or 2 women are the same thing as husband and wife in their business, employment and whatever other situation they may find themselves in in the public square. It is as direct a violation of religious liberty as you can get. Why it seems invisible to so many in power, I do not know – perhaps because so few take religion seriously anymore. Nevertheless, those who do have a constitutional right to live according to their conscience. I wish Rep Kern the best and applaud her efforts! She is a good and loyal Christian representative of most of the people of Oklahoma.

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