Oklahoma House passes bill shifting marriage license authority from state to clergy

By : Wire Report
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House has approved legislation that shifts the issuance of marriage licenses from the state to members of the clergy.

House members voted 67-24 for the measure March 10 and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
The measure by Republican Rep. Todd Russ of Cordell would replace a state-issued marriage license with a clergy-issued marriage certificate.

Russ says it gets government out of the business of licensing marriage. Opponents say it is a reaction by lawmakers who disagree with a federal judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“The point of my legislation is to take the state out of the process and leave marriage in the hands of the clergy,” said state Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, the bill’s House author. “Marriage was historically a religious covenant first and a government-recognized contract second. Under my bill, the state is not allowing or disallowing same-sex marriage. It is simply leaving it up to the clergy.”

Russ says the state neither allows nor disallows same-sex marriage under the bill. But opponents, including Democratic Rep. Emily Virgin of Norman, say state government needs to be involved in the process.

Some Democratic state legislators argued that Russ’ House Bill 1125 may have the unintended effect of preventing the state from stopping polygamy or bigamy practices. As drafted, the bill would eliminate from Oklahoma law the words that define marriage as being “with a person of the opposite sex.”

“As I read your bill, as long as the clergy has signed off on it, the state will have essentially signed off on it,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, The Oklahoman reports. “You are potentially opening up Pandora’s Box.”

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