Oklahoma City, Okla. (CBS HOUSTON) — Oklahoma lawmakers are considering legislation to ban all marriages in the state, if only as just a move to keep same-sex marriage illegal while satisfying the U.S. Constitution.
The consideration is backed by a bill filed by state Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, who says that he and other conservative lawmakers agree that government regulation of marriage altogether is a topic for debate, KWTV reports. Turner acknowledges that the move would keep same-sex marriage illegal, and allow it to navigate around a recent ruling that same-sex bans are against federal law.
“[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all,” Turner told KWTV.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Judge Terence C. Kern of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma writes that the ban on marriage by gay and lesbian couples is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.”
Kern continued, that the amendment does not advance the state’s promotion of heterosexual marriage, and is instead a law based in “moral disapproval.”
However, Rep. Turner said he and other Oklahoma lawmakers can envision a state that does not recognize any marriages at all.
“That would definitely be a realistic opportunity, and it’s something that would be part of the discussion,” said Turner.
The country is divided on the issue, with 11 states – most recently Illinois and Hawaii — approving same-sex marriage, while more than 30 states have passed amendments limiting marriage between a man and a woman. A separate federal judge recently ruled that Utah’s prohibition against same-sex marriage is also unconstitutional.
Republican Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, a former state judge for Texas’s 7th judicial district and chief justice of Texas’s 12th Court of Appeals, said that federal judges seeking “biological evidence to support marriage being between a man and a woman” are in need of “basic plumbing lessons.”
Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Oklahoma branch, said that Turner and other lawmaker’s response to ban all marriage is unprecedented and grounded in pure politics.
“I think that, especially with issues like this, [these lawmakers are] out of touch with most Oklahomans,” Kiesel told KWTV. “In five years from now, we’re going to look back at legislative efforts like this as inconsistent with the right side of history.”
Anchored by a June 2013 Supreme Court decision declaring portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, same-sex marriage advocates have pushed dozens of lawsuits to challenge state bans similar to the one in Oklahoma.
“Moving forward I think we’ll see less efforts like this,” Kiesel added.
But Turner concedes that although his idea may make many uncomfortable, he can “accept that.” However, Turner and other lawmakers are waiting for the federal appeals process to finish before proceeding with plans for a statewide ban on marriage.
— Benjamin Fearnow