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Controversial marriage license bill passes House, headed to Senate

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OKLAHOMA CITY-- A bill passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives would change the way marriage licenses are issued.

That duty would fall under responsibility of members of the clergy or those authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.

Some lawyers are saying the bill is unconstitutional.

The author of House Bill 1125, Rep. Todd Russ, wrote it in response to the Supreme Court’s decision making same-sex marriage Constitutional.

He said Oklahoma should be able to go around the decision, but legal experts say that’s not how it works.

Rep. Russ wants to take government out of the marriage business.

“I think Oklahoma's at the point where we have decided we are drawing a line today and sidestepping the government's overreach,” Rep. Russ (R – Cordell) said.

Right now, you go to the court clerk’s office for a marriage license.

Under Russ’s bill, you could get a marriage certificate created by the clergy.

“It’s iron clad, airtight, as far as a legal marriage as much as it ever was,” Russ said.

Opponents worry about the ability of certain groups – whether gay couples or atheists – being able to get marriage certificates if they’re not issued by the government.

“It’s absolutely unconstutional,” legal analyst David McKenzie said.

Legal analysts say the law would likely be struck down in court, costing taxpayers a lot of money paying lawyers to defend it.

“They need to respect the decision of the United States Supreme Court, not try to circumvent it by passing some law that is clearly invalid,” McKenzie said.

Russ disagrees, saying the Supreme Court shouldn’t define marriage in Oklahoma.

“You know in the early days, the king actually went before the priest to ask for marriage. Somehow along the way we’ve changed it to where we have to ask the government before we go to the priest to be married, and now we have problems,”
Russ said.

But Freedom Oklahoma, a supporter of the LGBT community, says it doesn’t just affect same sex couples.

"This legislation puts ALL couples who plan to marry in Oklahoma at risk of being denied hundreds of federal legal rights and protections, if it were to become law.

The federal government and other states will not be required to acknowledge these proposed ‘marriage certificates.’ This legislation will only result in mass confusion from clerk’s offices to courtrooms around the nation - while putting Oklahoma families at risk. In the past six months, the freedom to marry has been the law of the land in Oklahoma, and not a single marriage has been at risk - until now, and it is our elected officials who are creating the danger,”
Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said.

The bill passed the House 67-24 and is now in the Senate.

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