The reaction of the Oklahoma State Legislature to court rulings in favor of Marriage Equality is a reminder of why matters of civil rights cannot be left up to the states to decide but rather require ongoing federal protection under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. During this legislative session, republican members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have brought forward for consideration three aggressive anti-LGBTQ bills in reaction to marriage equality now being the law of the land in Oklahoma.
House Bill 1125 is authored by Representative Todd Russ and is titled “Marriage licenses; deleting issuance of marriage licenses; providing for marriage certificates and affidavits of common law marriage” HB 1125 received a Do Pass recommendation from the Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee on a 7-2 vote. If this bill becomes law, as of November 1, 2015 you can either receive a marriage certificate from a religious official or a judge, or you can be recognized as part of a common law marriage. According to the Tulsa World, Representative Russ “proposed the bill to protect court clerks and other government employees who did not want to be involved in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.” (Tulsa World, 02/18/2015)
House Bill 1598, is authored by Representative Sally Kern and is titled “The Parental and Family Rights in Counseling Protection Act.” This bill is set for a hearing on February 25, 2015 in the House Children, Youth and Family Services Committee chaired by Kern. (UPDATE 02/25/2015, the bill passed through committee and will be considered by the full House). If enacted it would entail “prohibiting government from prohibiting or restricting certain counseling by a mental health provider; prohibiting government from restricting certain rights of parents; providing for certain construction; providing for assertion of certain claim; permitting mental health provider to engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a child…” In other words, the bill would ensure that parents would have the right to use conversion therapy in the attempt to change the sexual orientation of their children.
House Bill 1599 is authored by Representative Sally Kern and is titled “The Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act” HB 1599 received a Do Pass recommendation from the Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee on a 5-3 party line vote with one republican member of the committee not voting. If this bill were to become law, it would entail “prohibiting public funds for any activity licensing or supporting same-sex marriage; prohibiting public employees from recognizing same-sex marriage licenses; prohibiting spending public funds to enforce certain court orders; directing state courts to dismiss challenges to the act; providing for payment of costs and attorney fees; prohibiting interference with implementation of the act; requiring removal of office for any judge violating the act; stating effectiveness of act against federal court rulings…” In effect, if you are a state employee who does anything to recognized marriage equality, here in Oklahoma you will lose your job; and if you are a judge who wants to comply with the federal rulings on marriage equality, here in Oklahoma, you will lose your job.
Representative Kern withdrew another bill House Bill 1597 that if passed would have given businesses the right to refuse service to LGBTQ persons or groups.
What these bills all have in common is that they target a group of people for discriminatory behavior based on their sexual orientation. LGBTQ persons are being singled out to be treated differently under the law simply because of their sexual orientation. These laws would deny LGBTQ persons equal protection under the law as is prescribed in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. HB 1599 would allow the state to harm individuals and their families who decide to comply with federal rulings regarding marriage equality by taking away their employment, HB 1125 would allow for discrimination on the part of state officials who do not want to provide marriage licenses for same gender couples by doing away with marriage licenses altogether and only providing marriage certificates that can be granted at the discretion of the person doing the ceremony. HB 1598 would codify state support for conversion therapy, which is viewed as having harmful effects on children and youth by the mental health profession. In effect, these bills, if they become law, will do harm to persons who are LGBTQ simply because they are LGBTQ. These bills are injustices and violations of rights in the guise of legislation. If they become law, they will be examples of legislative hate crimes. They will be legislated crimes of hate against our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, and the federal government must make sure that these legislated crimes of hate will not stand, just as the federal government did not let the crimes of hate stand against our African American sisters and brothers when states like Oklahoma violated their rights during the days of Jim Crow. It is time for Oklahoma to quit wasting time creating laws to discriminate against our neighbors that will ultimately be found to be unconstitutional and cost us millions of dollars in court costs and lost economic opportunity and focus on laws that provide liberty and justice for all.
If these bills become law, they will be unjust laws, and unjust laws are not laws at all. They will deserve protest and mass disobedience on the part of justice seeking Oklahomans everywhere.