Culture Wars: The Reddest State Front

Culture Wars:  The Reddest State Front

The legislature of the state representing the Mother Road’s most conservative stretch has wasted no time in the new session introducing bills to outlaw or maximally marginalize those who do not share the values or belief system of the duly elected representatives of the cultural majority.  One such elected culture warrior whose controversial views are nationally renowned is Representative Sally Kern of Oklahoma City.  Kern has introduced House Bill 1599, the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act.  This bill as written contains some rather draconian language aimed at same-sex couples.  It would outlaw recognition of same-sex marriages in Oklahoma by any state employee, including judges and prohibit “public funds for any activity licensing or supporting same-sex marriage.”  It further states that no “taxpayer funds or governmental salaries” should be paid for licensing or support of same-sex marriage.  Other language included goes like, “No employee of this state and no employee of any local governmental entity shall officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license and continue to receive a salary, pension or other employee benefit at the expense of taxpayers of this state,”  It even goes so far to call for removal of judges who violate this act.  I do get the message, Sally Kern and many of those who elected her do not like gay people and demand that they not be granted equal rights under the law of this state.  

Then we have a representative from HD 55 in the western end of our fair state by the name of Todd Russ who happens to chair the House Banking and Financial Services Committee.  This past week Representative Russ introduced HB 1125, a law change intended to remove government from marriage.  This is Mr. Russ’ response to the overturning of Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban by the U.S. Supreme Court last October.  If he gets his way and this bill is passed as written, a marriage certificate could only be signed off on by a priest, minister, rabbi or ecclesiastical dignitary.  It is his way of not putting judges or county clerks in the position of doing something that might be against their religion, like granting same-sex couples marriage licenses.  If this bill passes, judges and secular non-theistic marriage officials would be banned from conducting marriage ceremonies.  According to Russ, those not wanting to get married by a religious official could file an affidavit with the court clerk’s office for common law marriage.  Now that is all fine and well except that the State of Oklahoma at this time does not recognized common law marriage.  This would pretty much deny recognition of a marital union by the state of any non-religious couple.  I totally get it.  This is Todd Russ’ effort to push back against what he sees as creeping secularism.  I have news for Mr. Russ.  Secularists have been here all along.  I know he may feel rebuffed and put upon when a state ban on marriage rights for a certain segment of the population was struck down by the Supreme Court but laws do not exist to safeguard the rights of the majority.  They exist to safeguard those of the minority.  I know its a pipe dream but I would also like Mr. Russ to know that it is a growing minority he seeks to marginalize with his legislation.

Part of me feels genuine pity for souls like Kern and Russ.  During my active duty Navy years I had to struggle with a lot of religious and policy induced prejudices regarding gay folk.  Having a gay extended family member with many friends and having gay civilians working along side of me, I had much to overcome to accept the reality that they were people like everyone else and you never know really who is and who isn’t in your daily dealings in the community.  I also had to wrestle with the issue that what someone else believes or doesn’t believe is not really any of my business on the front side and does it really matter on the back side.  If you are going to write someone off your list for no other reason than for being gay or not believing in the same mythology you do then you likely have worse character issues of your own.  I understand that much of this comes from rigid inside-the-box-thinking of religious faith that grants no exceptions.  It is this sort of all-or-nothing offering that is losing organized religion subscribers by the hundreds.  At a time when most of America is softening its stand on granting gays, humanists, free thinkers and other secularists types more freedom and equality before the law, the Kerns and Russes of Oklahoma continue to steer us all backward toward the Dark Ages.  I wonder how this all will look to historians in fifty years time?  I have a parting message for these Biblical based legislators from the Book of Proverbs, Chapter 11, Verse 29:

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.”


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