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One Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants to Privatize Marriage -- Or Does He?

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

According to a Oklahoma news station, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond) has filed a proposed amendment to the state's constitution that would change marriage in the state in a whole new way. Turner wants voters to believe that his solution to a potential court ruling that could overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage is to get the state out of the business of regulating marriage period. He says this will allow the state to keep same-sex marriage illegal while adhering to the U.S. Constitution.

"[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all," Turner said.

Supporters say that privatized marriage is something Oklahomans want, but this is not exactly what Turner is proposing and critics of his bill are saying this is nothing more than a political ploy to get around the courts if the state's ban on same-sex marriage is struck down.

From the bill:

SECTION 1. The Secretary of State shall refer to the people for their approval or rejection, as and in the manner provided by law, the following proposed amendment to Section 35 of Article II of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma to read as follows:   Section 35. A. Marriage in this state Oklahoma shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.   B. A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state Oklahoma as of the date of the marriage.   C. Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

So, the idea is if a heterosexual couple wants to get married in a church or private venue, the state would be willing to recognize it as a legal marriage without the need for a license or any other kind of legal document. However, if a same-sex couple wants to get married in a private venue or a church willing to perform the ceremony, the law would still say they are not married.

This is not the privatization of marriage. The state would still say who can and cannot get married. The only difference between the law as it is now and the law as it would be if Turner moves forward with the bill and the final language is approved by voters is that heterosexual couples would no longer have to get a document that says they are legally married.

The proposed amendment would not guarantee equal status and equal protection under the law, and therefore would still violate the U.S. Constitution.

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