Voters in 31 states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. But no state has done it twice. That could change in 2014, however, if one Oklahoma lawmaker has his way.
Republican Rep. Mike Turner, a 26-year-old SMU graduate, has introduced a resolution that would direct the secretary of state to place the 2004 marriage amendment back on the ballot — so voters can approve some changes. Thus far, Turner’s only proposed change is to substitute “Oklahoma” for the word “state” in the text of the amendment. However, Turner has also introduced a separate bill called the “Preservation of Marriage Act” — which is currently in skeletal form. Oklahoma’s statewide LGBT advocacy group, The Equality Network, opposes both measures.
“Because Rep. Turner has also introduced a House Joint Resolution (HJR 1076) calling for a second statewide ballot banning same-sex marriage, it is assumed that this bill also aims to keep same-sex marriage illegal,” The Equality Network says of the Preservation of Marriage Act in a fact sheet posted online.
Laura Belmonte, chair of The Equality Network, issued a statement Monday.
“Rep. Turner’s proposed resolution and bill are both fiscally irresponsible and unconstitutional,’ Belmonte said. “With our state facing a $170 million revenue shortfall and a court decision striking down Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban already winding its way through the appeals process, this is a waste of time and energy that could be better directed toward tackling the many and very real challenges facing ordinary Oklahomans.”
Turner told Lone Star Q on Monday afternoon that he doesn’t expect the two measures to go anywhere this session. He said he filed them so that they could be used if needed to address the issue of same-sex marriage. But he said he thinks the Legislature should wait until after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules in a pending federal lawsuit. Earlier this month, a federal district judge in Oklahoma struck down the state’s marriage amendment as unconstitutional, but the state has appealed the ruling to the 10th Circuit.
Turner said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, and his constituents are strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. However, he said he’s not homophobic and has a gay legislative assistant. Turner said if federal courts force Oklahoma to recognize same-sex marriages, he believes the state should stop regulating marriage altogether. In other words, the state would treat all marriages — gay and straight — as civil contracts and would not refer to them as marriages.
“When the state is no longer dealing with marriage and no longer dealing with ecclesiastical matters, that means the courts and any activist can’t sit there and subvert it for their own purposes,” Turner said. “It also satisfies the equal protection that the law and the Constitution demands.”
Turner acknowledged that the issue “more or less” boils down to the use of the word “marriage,” which he claims is being co-opted.
“This is something that people care about,” Turner said. “For them to sit there and see the word gay marriage, for a lot of people in Oklahoma, that is an affront to them. They’re not against the equal protection; they’re against marriage being perverted — by gay activists and individuals who are trying to make this an attack on religion, and that’s how a lot of people here in Oklahoma see it.”