Jason Nelson, the Republican Oklahoma state rep — who does not have gay face! — introduced HB 3408, called “An act relating to marriage” which would make it a felony for a minister of the gospel to solemnize a marriage not recognized by the state. Apparently their 2004 constitutional amendment codifying marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution, banning civil unions and other legal protections for gay and lesbian people, and punishing any issuance of a marriage license to a same-sex couple weren’t enough to “protect marriage.” Now we have to throw ministers in jail for 1 to 5 years just to make quadruple sure.
The weird thing is that the law’s already officially on the books. Nelson’s version merely strikes “State Penitentiary” from the existing law and inserts “custody of the Department of Corrections” in its place. Why the meaningless word change, you ask? Well, Nelson himself has called HB 3408 “a shell bill”, an underdeveloped bill submitted before the legislative deadline for introducing new bills has passed. Legislators will use shell bills to buy some time and hold a place in the legislative agenda so they can write out a full version of a typically controversial bill, giving their opponents less time to organize a counter-argument before it’s formally introduced in the legislature.
Nevermind that the law is, in its entirety, in gross violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees the government will not make any law that infringes upon the establishment or exercise of religion.
But hey, we’ll keep watching to see just what Nelson has up his sleeve. In the meantime, does Rep. Nelson actually think images of handcuffed ministers will sit well with voters of any faith? If you’re out there, political opponents, we’ve already put together your first campaign ad.