Same-sex marriage bans are being overturned left and right, with the most recent in Alabama. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear these marriage cases, and the Justice Department is urging the court to rule in favor of ‘marriage for all.’
In response, a Republican representative in Oklahoma has a different idea. If forbidding marriage between same-sex couples is unconstitutional, the next best thing, he seems to have decided, is to limit marriage to religious couples. According to KSWO, Representative Todd Russ’s proposal would eliminate the role of government in marriage solemnization, so that only religious officials could perform weddings. Presumably, pastors could still perform same-sex marriages if they chose to, but judges and clerks would no longer perform any marriages.
Russ says the measure would protect judges and clerks from being forced to perform same-sex marriages that violate their religious beliefs.
It’s not the first time that a broad ban on marriage has been proposed in the state. A year ago, right after the state’s same-sex marriage ban was overturned, Representative Mike Turner filed a bill to completely eliminate marriage in Oklahoma. According to CBS Houston, Turner maintained at the time that this was a move his constituents were willing to consider.
In Todd Russ’s new iteration of the proposal, while the state would not solemnize marriages, one could still be obtained, but no marriage licenses would be given by the state, and only religious officials would perform them.
In a move that has some constituents feeling a sense of deja vu, Russ offered a compromise for the nonreligious: instead of a wedding performed by an official, they could file an affidavit of common law marriage. It’s not too far from the ‘civil partnerships’ that have been proposed in some states for same-sex couples, in an attempt to keep the institution separate from heterosexual marriage.
The Supreme Court will soon rule on marriage bans, however, making a final determination in two areas: first, whether states must grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and second, whether states must recognize marriages performed elsewhere that could not have been obtained in that state. That ruling, whichever way it goes, may make Todd Russ’s bill moot.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage bans, though, it seems unlikely that a state would pass a law that takes away its power to regulate, and charge for, a major institution of our culture.