Do you, State, take this Church…

The latest session of the Oklahoma State Legislature will be banging it’s opening gavel on Feb 2, so it’s time to play “The Crazy Things That Have Been Introduced In The Oklahoma State Legislature!” again. I can’t believe it’s only been a year since we last played this game, time flies by so fast!

Our friend Damion over at Skeptic Ink has written a beautiful rundown of the trio of bad legislation Sally Kern has introduced. Unfortunately for all of us, one blog post is not nearly enough to cover all the amazingly dumb and offensive legislation typically introduced every year, so I thought I’d bring us all up to date on another winner.

My entry for the game comes from Representative Todd Russ. Representing Cordell as a Republican (and Assemblies of God minister, natch), Russ has blessed our great state by introducing HB 1125. This legislation makes churches the only source for marriage licenses and requiring church approval before someone can get legally married. For you sinners out there, you get to file something called an “affidavit of common law marriage”. Sexy, right?

According to an article by the Daily Oklahoman, Rep. Russ claims:

…House Bill 1125 an example of “conscience legislation,” meant to allow people to exercise their religious values in good conscience.

It seems he thinks this legislation is necessary to protect clergy from being forced (by that evil institution THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT) into performing marriage ceremonies for couples who don’t qualify as married people in their particular flavor of religious faith. (Which is totally happens, guys. Really. I mean, you can’t swing a cat in this state without hitting a preacher who was forced by G-Men to consecrate marriages involving non-maiden women, divorcees, non-tithers, heathens and demons.)

Well, actually the truth is  you can’t swing a cat in this state without hitting a preacher, but I don’t know how many of them have been persecuted by THE MAN into bastardizing their sacred rituals. Rep. Russ seems to think it’s a problem, and he’s a preacher, so I’ll assume it’s happened. Bunches.

But here’s the thing: common-law marriages are extremely legally tenuous. Most states (including Oklahoma) don’t officially, legally recognize them. There have been some court cases upholding the concept (those meddling courts are at it again folks!), but there are few to no codified legal protections for couples without marriage licenses, and any protections you may get only come from lengthy and costly court proceedings rather than the pretty easy process of presenting a VALID MARRIAGE LICENSE to the official, weather that official is the IRS, your insurance company, probate court, hospitals, prisons, etc. where proving you’re married to someone is necessary.

Also, the Oklahoma marriage license is kinda pretty. I’d hate to see it disappear.

It seems Rep. Russ wants to use Oklahoma law to make being married tons harder for folks who aren’t good, church-going, tithe-paying, choir-singing, gay-stoning, pork-avoiding citizens. No matter how you look at it this seems like a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which holds that every citizen has the right to equal protection under the law. Even non-church going citizens. Even citizens who (gasp) don’t believe in gods! Since marriage confers approximately 1,400 legal rights, not to mention is totally awesome, denying those rights (or making them harder to access) based on religious preference is probably unconstitutional. And it’s just kind of a dick move, to be honest.

I guess I’ll never understand this rush to embrace the olden days; when the Church and the State were so entangled that to be a non-believer was akin to treason; when the Church decided who could be married and who couldn’t and the State enforced those decisions; when citizens were forced by the State to financially support the Church, even if they didn’t belong to it. Damion referenced the American Civil war in his break-down, but I think my war was about a century earlier than that. My great war was the war that freed the American people from the yoke of Church dominance and set us on the path to be the first great secular nation. To go back now seems downright un-American.