2015-MAR-10: Oklahoma: In a remarkable development, the Oklahoma House has approved a bill that would transfer the responsibility of issuing marriage licenses from the state to individual clergy. State Rep. Todd Russ (R) introduced the bill which:
"... would replace a state-issued marriage license with a clergy-issued marriage certificate."
State Rep. Emily Virgin (D) disagreed with the bill, She said that it was necessary for the Oklahoma government to be involved in the marriage process.
Since anybody can purchase an ordination certificate on the Internet, this could cause marriage licenses to be issued by anyone to any couple, including opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, incestuous couples, perhaps even inter-species couples like a person and their dog, etc.
The implications of this bill may not be fully thought out by its sponsor.
Even though the bill is clearly unconstitutional, would not survive any court challenge, and doesn't really make sense, the bill was passed by the House with the vote of 67 to 24. It now proceeds to the Senate. 1
Webmaster's snarky comment: (bias alert):
I have long felt that there should be penalties assigned to lawmakers who vote for bills that are clearly unconstitutional. The federal Defense of Marriage Act is one example. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of constitutonal law is aware that the federal Government cannot define marriage. Since marriage is not discussed in the federal Constitution, the matter is automatically left to the states. Yet the DOMA bill, passed in 1996 with bipartisan support, and signed into law by President Clinton (D) remained on the books for 17 years until Section 3 of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme court in mid-2013. We need a better system to nip unconstitutional bills in the bud BEFORE they become laws.
I suggest a process whereby each bill passed by Congress or by a state legislature be reviewed for constitutionality by a group of constitutional experts and a also by a second group composed of high school students who have taken an introductory course in basic constitutional law. If both groups agree overwhelmingly that the bill is clearly unconstitutional, then each representative or senator would be fined, say, $10,000, for incompetence. The fine would be halved if they successfully completed a Grade 12 course in constitutional law.
2015-MAR-16: Strange developments in southern states: Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas:
In Alabama, Probate Judges who issue marriage licenses in the state are ignoring a ruling by their federal District Court and following instructions from the Alabama Supreme Court. They are no longer issuing licenses to same-sex couples. One Probate Judge asked the Alabama Supreme Court to commit itself to allowing same-sex couples to marry quickly if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality in mid-2015. More details.
In Oklahoma, a bill has been introduced that would replace marriage licenses issued by the state with marriage certificates issued by clergy. The rational is that since all or almost all fundamentalist or other evangelical pastor would refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, that they would be unable to marry in the state. At the same time, because of the freedoms guaranteed to the clergy by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a pastor cannot be prosecuted for discriminating against a couple by refusing to issue them a license on the basis of their sexual orientation. But any Unitarian Universalist, Episcopalian, United Church or other liberal minister in the state would probably be quite willing to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. So, at most, this arrangement would be a minor inconvenience to same-sex couples. Also, with the presence of so many ordination mills on the Internet that are willing to ordain strangers with no religious training, anyone can become a member of the clergy for a small fee -- and somtimes for free -- and may be recognized by the state as able to issue marriage licenses.
In South Carolina a bill has been introduced to amend the federal Constitution to ban marriage equality everywhere in the country. State Senator Larry Grooms (R) says that: "It has to do with the propagation of our species." Senator Grooms may not have thought his proposal through thoroughly. In reality, allowing same-sex couples to marry would give them status, rights, privileges and protections that opposite-sex married couples have always enjoyed. Once married, many would then feel more secure in their relationship and be more inclined to add children to their family that they would otherwise have done. Of course, they cannot procreate themselves, and would have to rely on the same assisted fertility techniques used by infertile opposite-sex couples: artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, or surrogate parenting. This should actually increase the birth rate. As an added advantage, many children in orphanages and foster homes could enjoy permanent homes in a forever family.
In Texas, Representative Molly White (R) has introduced a bill that, if passed, would allow the state to ignore any future ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage equality. This would seem to be approaching a declaration of secession from the United States. If Texas was joined by Alabama and 9 other southern states, this could result in a repeat of events in 1861 that caused the civil war.
In the following "Marriage News Watch" video, Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) discusses these developments, with humor:
2015-MAR-16: Tennessee: Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle has an impressive information sign on its building. At one time, apparently in March, it appeared to demonize the LGBT and civil rights community who promote marriage equality. It said:
"REMEMBER SATAN WAS THE FIRST TO DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS"
They apparently received a lot of criticism. They changed the sign to read, with scrambled grammar and non-existent punctuation:
"GLAD YOU READING DID NOT INTENT TO OFFEND WE ALL NEED CHRIST."
2015-MAR-20: Idaho House votes to impeach federal judges:
The Idaho House voted 44 to 25 to approve resolution HJM 4. It would impeach any federal judge who issues a ruling in favor of marriage equality. State Rep. Paul Shepherd (R) who wrote and sponsored the bill said:
"You can‚t say an immoral behavior according to God‚s word, what we‚ve all been taught since the beginning, is something that‚s just, and that‚s really kinda what this is all about. We‚d better uphold Christian morals. As an example, how about fornication, adultery and other issues."
State Rep. Ken Andrus, (R) was one of the GOP representatives who voted in favor of the bill. He said:
"The thing that bothers me is that a small group of judges are ignoring the will of the people from several states." 3
Webmaster's comment (bias alert):
I disagree with Andrus' comment. A few dozen federal judges have issued decisions overturning amendments to state Constitutions that banned same-sex marriage. Each of these judges is quite aware that a strong majority of voters had voted in favor of each amendment. Discussion of the amendment would have formed a major part of the defendants' case. However, each of the federal judges also considered the Due Process and/or the Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which requires federal, state, and local governments to treat people equally. Thus if opposite-sex couples are allowed to marry, same-sex couples must also be allowed to marry.
All of the 14 Democratic and 11 Republican representatives voted against the resolution. That is to be expected, since it is not within the constitutional power of a state to impeach a federal judge. However, 44 other Republican representatives were either unaware that no state can impeach a federal judge, or didn't care.
Fortunately, they voted on a resolution, not a bill. A resolution is only an expression of the legislators' opinion.