When it comes to the issue of marriage, some people want to force the entire country to accept legalized gay marriage in every state, while others want to force the entire country to accept only the traditional definition of marriage in every state. And others just want to keep the status quo.
But a bill under consideration in Oklahoma would effectively nullify everyone on all sides of the marriage issue.
Introduced by State Rep Todd Russ, House Bill 1125 (HB1125) would end state issued marriage licenses, while providing marriage certificates as an alternative. The bill would replace all references to marriages “licenses” in state law with “certificates. The legislation would not invalidate any marriage licenses issued prior to the bill being passed.
Any entity requiring proof of identity or marital status shall accept a certified copy of the marriage certificate or affidavit of common law marriage that has been filed with the court clerk. Any reference in the Oklahoma Statutes requiring a marriage license as proof of identity or marital status shall be interpreted to include a marriage certificate or affidavit of common law marriage executed on or after November 1, 2015.
A person would have to be 18 or older in order to be considered “capable of contracting and consenting to marriage.” Sixteen and 17 year old Oklahomans would be allowed to marry with their parents’ permission.
The bill would still allow for a formal marriage to be contracted in front of at least two adults, by an Oklahoma judge or retired judge, or an ordained minister, with limited exceptions. Alternatively, applicants could simply file an affidavit of common law marriage with the court clerk signed by both parties that includes their residences, full legal names and age.
Though HB1125 does not define marriage specifically, the certificate only allows for two parties and forbids them from marrying if they are already married.
HB1125 passed the Judiciary and Civil Procedures Committee 7-2 on Feb. 17 and moves on to the full House for consideration.
HB1125 would accomplish two things.
First, it would render void the edicts of federal judges that have overturned state laws defining marriage. The founding generation never envisioned unelected judges issuing ex cathedra pronouncements regarding the definition of social institutions like marriage and the Constitution delegates the federal judiciary no authority to meddle in the issue. Marriage is a realm clearly left to the state and the people..
Second, the bill would get the state government out of defining marriage entirely as well, ending the squabble between factions that seek to harness the power of the state, thereby taking the burden off government officials who may be torn between what is legally required of them and their religious convictions.
The intent or motives behind this bill are a moot point. By removing the state from the equation, no one can force another to accept their marriage, nor can they force another to reject that person’s own beliefs regarding an institution older than government.
As a 2007 New York Times op/ed points out, for centuries marriage was a private affair.
“For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity. For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.
In fact, the use of state marriage licenses for many years was a way of preventing people from entering into interracial marriages. Later, the NYT story recounts, the licenses became necessary in order to subsidize the welfare state.
“The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information.”
Something that is rarely considered by those seeking to control the state’s definition of marriage is that a marriage license means a citizen requires the permission of their government before they can get married. A person cannot drive a vehicle, aside from limited circumstances, without a license. A person cannot practice law without a license, nor can they engage in medical care.
Put another way, marriage is not a right, or a religious institution, but a privilege the state grants us if we meet the conditions put upon us.
Consider this: In the same way a driver can lose their license if they break certain traffic laws, a man or woman, theoretically, could one day find their marriage license revoked for breaking certain “marriage” rules, whether it pertains to child rearing, or their religious and political convictions.
Christopher Wesley, an associated scholar at the Mises Institute, wrote that “marriage is most endangered when it rests in the coercive hands of the State.”
No one should require the permission of a third party, including the state, before they can declare their life-long devotion to another person. Marriages should be accepted or rejected according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, not by the barrel of a gun.
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