In response to a federal court ruling that Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional discrimination, a state lawmaker says he wants to skirt the equal protection argument by banning all marriages in the state.
“[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all,” Rep. Mike Turner (R) told News 9. He said the idea has the backing of other conservative lawmakers, and could be achieved through a shell bill he filed in the state legislature, intended to adapt to any court rulings on same-sex marriage.
A federal judge invalidated the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage earlier this month, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark June decision that held the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. “[Courts] must be wary of whether ‘defending’ traditional marriage is a guise for impermissible discrimination against same-sex couples.” U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote. The case will now be appealed to the federal appeals court, so Turner says he will wait until the appeal is over to make any final determinations about how to handle his shell bill.
The move not only mimics one by Utah county officials after another federal judge invalidated that state’s same-sex marriage law. It also mirrors tactics used in the Jim Crow south to resist the U.S. Supreme Court’s order that states desegregate schools in Brown v. Board of Education. As part of a “massive resistance” campaign urged by Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd, the Virginia legislature ordered the closure of schools subject to a desegregation order. When that tactic was invalidated by courts, one county went so far as to shut down its public school system entirely from 1959 until 1964.
Oklahoma tried a similar tactic in November to avoid granting military benefits to same-sex spouses, by stopping spousal benefits for all married couples at state National Guard facilities. But the state remained in technical compliance because couples could obtain National Guard IDs from federal facilities in the state.
And after a federal judge invalidated Utah’s same-sex marriage ban last month, one Utah county closed its clerk’s office, meaning no one could obtain a marriage license.