Oklahoma has made headlines passing legislation that removes government officials from the marriage process and puts it all in the hands of clergy.
In a move that has surprised many, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives has passed into law a bill that permits only people of faith to get married. The controversial law invariably places a marital ban on atheists residing within the boundaries of the state.
House Bill 1125, which was sponsored by state Rep. Todd Russ (R), passed reading last Tuesday with a 67-24 vote, piggybacking on a massive support from a Republican majority. The law, which now requires all marriage licenses to be approved by a member of clergy, will now go to the state Senate for consideration.
If the Senate approves the bill, it implies that only “an ordained or authorized preacher or minister of the Gospel, priest or other ecclesiastical dignitary of any denomination” would be allowed to issue “certificates of marriage” after presiding over a ceremony.
Canvassing support for the very unpopular HB 1125, Todd Russ said it would “protect” county court clerks opposed to marriage equality from having to recognize same-sex couples’ unions. Shifting the responsibility onto the shoulders of clergymen, Russ pointed out that it will take clerks “out of the trap.”
Apparently, not everyone was in support of the new law. Reacting to the development, state Rep. Dennis Johnson (R) 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.”
In the same vein, Oklahomans for Equality, an advocacy group, called it part of an “all-out assault on the LGBT citizens of Oklahoma.” Democrats in Oklahoma’s State House who opposed the bill pointed out that it essentially legalized same-sex unions anyway, arguing that it does not define marriage as exclusively being between a man and a woman.