Proposed Bill Would Fire Clerks, Judges Who Issue Same Sex Marriage Licenses

Wednesday, February 18th 2015, 6:38 pm

By: News 9

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill that would fire court clerks and judges if they issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.

House Bill 1599 is one of several bills that would impose restrictions on gay marriages, which are now legal in Oklahoma. The bill passed out of committee on Tuesday and now heads to the full house.

There are constitutional concerns with this bill, however the five votes the bill got in committee all came from state representatives who have law degrees.

“It's quite possibly the most unconstitutional thing I've ever seen go a through committee,” said Troy Stevenson with Freedom Oklahoma.

Freedom Oklahoma leaders knew they would have some legal battles this legislative session after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling paved the way for same sex marriage in Oklahoma. However, the advocacy group thought House Bill 1599 would be dead on arrival. 

“This has massive constitutional issues,” Stevenson said. “I would take it a step farther, I think it would cause a constitutional crisis if this was passed.”

2/18/2015 Related Story: LGBT Workplace Equality Bill Won't Be Heard This Legislative Session

Rep. Sally Kern's bill would strip pay and benefits from public employees who recognize or issue same sex marriage licenses. It would also remove any judges who violate the measure.

Essentially, if they do their jobs, they lose their jobs and if they refuse to do their jobs, they are violating a federal court order. The bill also states the measure cannot be challenged in court.

Kern's bill cites the Oklahoma Constitution as grounds for termination, but law experts say she is forgetting something.

“Sally Kern needs to understand the Constitution,” said OU Law professor Rick Tepker. “U. S. Constitution provides that federal law preempts and supersedes state law.”

Tepker said state lawmakers simply do not have the power to stop federal law from going into effect.

“She has nothing to stand on,” Tepker told News 9.

Freedom Oklahoma suggested lawmakers focus on improving the $600 million budget shortfall rather than adding to it with unconstitutional legislation that will certainly end up in court if passed.

“These will be litigated and that litigation will be costly. It'll be expensive and we can't afford it,” Stevenson added.

Kern said she is working with members on possible changes to the bill and she is not ready to comment on it yet.


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