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Why Is OK Rep. Jason Nelson Changing Just 1 Word of a Law Banning Priests From Officiating Gay Marriages?

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.

  • 10 Comments
    • Jamie
      Jamie

      Blatently unconstitutional. Separation of church and state anyone? If a church wishes to recognize a marriage, the state already doesn’t have to. This law (even if already on the books) establishes a religious practice.

      Jan 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jaroslaw
      Jaroslaw

      Thanks for including the email – I’ll send him one letting him know this is not 14th century Europe where we can havd inquisitions etc.

      On a more serious note – is he out of his mind? It is not the legislature’s job to impinge on religion & vice versa. Duh.

      Jan 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jaroslaw
      Jaroslaw

      Actually I decided against an e-mail (for a reason) and called the above number – apparently it is his home number the outgoing recording is a male voice “hello, you’ve reached the Nelson’s….”

      My message to him was that I hoped I got the right number and if he is the person who introduced HB 3408, don’t you have anything more pressing in your state to deal with? All you do by oppressing Gay people and denying them equal rights is you are unfair to them. We still will live together, etc. so you’re not stopping anything but denying the tax breaks straight people get. And remember, we Gay people pay taxes too. And I left my full real name & tel #. Will let you know if I get a response.

      Jan 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brady
      Brady

      I find it funny that this bill seemingly only applies to Christian ministers, seeing as how the Gospel refers to the teachings of Jesus. I guess the moral of the story is just go find an officiant from another religion?

      Jan 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chris
      chris

      Unless I’m mis-reading the Title 43, same-sex marriage isn’t *recognized* in OK, but could legally be performed (just would have no legal standing). Other marriages, however, *are* specifically forbidden by the State (eg incestuous marriage in §43-2, etc). Since same-sex marriage isn’t explicitly forbidden to be performed, I don’t think §43-14 applies to same-sex marriage.

      Jan 27, 2010 at 10:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jason Nelson
      Jason Nelson

      I want to provide you with information regarding House Bill 3408.

      Bills like HB3408 are commonly called and recognized as “shell” bills. This shell bill just happens to be related to marriage. The language contained in this shell bill is already in the state statutes – it is currently state law.

      The bill does absolutely nothing but change the words “State Penitentiary” to “custody of the Department of Corrections.” Everything else is already state law and the changed terms do not alter the meaning. If language in a bill is “amendatory” and not underlined it is understood to be existing law. Any language that is struck-through is existing law that is to be deleted, and underlined text is new language.

      When I asked House staff to draft a shell bill related to marriage, this is the part of existing law they pulled to reserve a bill related to the subject matter. This bill could be used to address any issue in Title 43 of the Oklahoma Statutes which relate to Marriage including such specific topics as divorce, child custody, alimony or any number of related issues.

      As this bill is a shell bill I was not familiar with the existing statute and therefore asked House legal staff to provide information about what Title 43, Sec. 14 relates to. I have included information based on their report to me.

      First, the existing statutory language in the bill does not address same sex marriage. The language you suggest I’m attempting to pass has actually been in the Oklahoma Statutes since 1910.

      Second, the current state law found in shell bill HB3408 addresses the following circumstances, “Marriages between ancestors and descendants of any degree, of a stepfather with a stepdaughter, stepmother with stepson, between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, except in cases where such relationship is only by marriage, between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood, and first cousins are declared to be incestuous, illegal and void, and are expressly prohibited.” (Title 43, Sec. 2)

      Additionally, current law addresses, “…no person under the age of eighteen … years shall enter into the marriage relation, nor shall any license issue therefor, except … upon the consent and authority expressly given by the parent or guardian ….” (Title 43, Sec. 3) Also, in section 3, “Every person under the age of sixteen … years is expressly forbidden and prohibited from entering into the marriage relation ….”

      Section 3C of the 1910 law also states, “No marriage may be authorized when such marriage would be incestuous under this chapter.”

      Section 4 of the 1910 law further states, “No person shall enter into or contract the marriage relation, nor shall any person perform or solemnize the ceremony of any marriage in this state without a license being first issued by the judge or clerk of the district court….”

      Third, the 1910 text found in HB3408 makes clear that it is only concerned with this “chapter” of Title 43 for which I have included the relevant language above. The prohibition of same-sex marriage passed by a vote of the people is not included in this title or section of statute.

      I actually don’t have any plans to run this bill or about 18 other shell bills out of the 26 measures I filed for this session related to issues from schools to the landlord and tenant act. You can go to http://www.lsb.state.ok.us and look up every bill I’ve filed and you will notice the majority are shell bills related to nearly two dozen different subjects.

      I filed House Bills 3401 to 3419 as shell bills this session. If you will look at each of them, you will notice they don’t do a single thing but change a word or two while not altering the current law in any significant way or it will say it is creating some kind of act with no substance listed in the text of the bill.

      Many legislators will file several shell bills “just in case.” Members must have all bills they wish to introduce submitted in December before session begins in February. So just in case some unforeseen issue arises after the deadline to submit bills passes, members often file numerous shell bills to keep their options open. House members can actually only run a total of eight of the bills they file with some rare exceptions.

      Please take the time to verify what I’ve written here. I assume you would object to removing the nearly 100 year old statute which provides penalties for performing marriages where the relationship is incestuous or involves a child – and which has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. I do not and will not support changing the law in favor of incestuous or child marriage.

      I wanted to make you aware of the facts, and I hope this addresses any concerns you may have. If not, please don’t hesitate to contact me for further clarification.

      Respectfully,

      Jason Nelson

      Jan 28, 2010 at 12:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Regan DuCasse
      Regan DuCasse

      Here in CA, part of what influenced voters to ban same sex marriage, is the insistence or assertion that clergy who REFUSED to marry same sex couples would and could be persecuted for doing so.
      Although that assertion is false, although that there are protections in the FEDERAL Constitution that provides that couples who don’t meet religious criteria (the divorced who remarry, or mixed religion couples), have the freedom to choose or not have religious officiants for their ceremonies.

      Regardless of that, Mark Leno, a GAY CA legislator has introduced a bill, that specifies these protections for anti gay clergy, however redundant that bill is.

      And now, here’s Nelson, with this bill that specifically WILL prosecute clergy who DO officiate at same sex ceremonies.

      How the worm friggin’ turns!

      On the one hand, in the federal court case Perry vs. Schwarzeneggar that is examining the constitutionality of Prop. 8, it’s Christians in particular who are crying ‘we’re being persecuted’ because of the Constitutional protections and inclusions being examined.
      Even though there is NO evidence, no facts that support any challenges to religious freedom OR any evidence of persecution whatsoever.

      And this bill, Nelson is describing, clearly looks to punish gay supportive clergy.
      That is to say, certain people of faith are eating their own.
      And further evidence of that, is this bill, before our own eyes.

      In the fever and fervor to excise gays and lesbians from protective, supportive and self reliance enabling social structures, it’s less and less like protections of marriage, family and religious freedom, than hostility, the ugliest of spite and tactics employed that history hasn’t nor deserves to support.
      Such as tactics employed by segregationists and supremacists to be exact.
      Making peaceful coexistence and even alliance between gay and hetero citizens to fight greater evils and support greater good, intractable and impossible.

      Even with the traditional good that equality and equal treatment under the law for otherwise disenfranchised citizens has provided.

      Nelson, there is no explaining this away. There is no rationale for this bill, and certainly there is specific and direct negative affect on gay lives and those who support them.

      You know what? In our religiously diverse society, there will be legal and even beneficial things that offend some religious beliefs.
      Like accepting organ and blood donation (whatever the risks), like contraception and dancing.
      But NONE, NONE of those who choose those beliefs can enforce the government to prevent others from utilizing them, or supporting others who do.
      Meaning, your religious beliefs are irrelevant in this, because religious beliefs are UNENFORCEABLE in America.

      Would you be this exercised and so enthused to discriminate if you hadn’t been TRAINED to be paranoid, fearful and hostile towards gay people?
      Seriously.
      Anybody?

      I find this war on gay people petty, disgusting and without ANY merit whatsoever.
      After all, there has been zero benefit to society for doing so.
      Certainly zero benefit to truth, honest and forthright social interaction.
      When has our society suffered for engaging EQUALITY in it?
      Anybody?

      Nelson, this is a clear example of flipping the script on what clergy can and will be prosecuted and it’s not GAY PEOPLE engaged in doing the prosecuting, nor who have cared to.

      It’s the season of SHOAH, Rememberance for those lost to the Holocaust.
      Shoah.
      Rememberance of what happened when normal, and Westernized people were taught and encouraged to suddenly see certain minorities of people as demons, harmful to the welfare of their culture and exacting benefits they didn’t deserve and who would be punished for trying to challenge the brewing loss of civil rights and legal rights.
      Apparently here, there is a considered ignorance of how all that happened. I guess you can’t remember what you’ve never been taught to.
      So get educated and quickly and then…

      REMEMBER.

      This bill is on the wrong and most terrible side of history, know that.

      Jan 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jamesnimmo
      jamesnimmo

      GOPer Rep. Jason Nelson gets a bit squirrelly in his use of the word “shell” in reference to his bill to arrest clergy who perform religious ceremonies he doesn’t like. He’s obviously not all embarrassed that his plan has been discovered, yet if a shell bill is merely a formality as he says, why does he select clergy performing ceremonies in the context of their constitutionally protected religious practices? And why does he single out marriage? Why didn’t he choose baptism, or divorce, or circumcision?

      Feb 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      . 8 · jamesnimmo “GOPer Rep. Jason Nelson gets a bit squirrelly in his use of the word “shell” in reference to his bill to arrest clergy who perform religious ceremonies he doesn’t like.”

      According to the article QUEERTY linked to ( http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/14994/proposed-oklahoma-bill-would-criminalize-performing-a-seme-sex-marriage-ceremony ), “All the proposed bill does is strike ‘State Penitentiary’ and insert ‘custody of the Department of Corrections’. According to this blog post, this is just a shell bill that Nelson filed, to have on hand ‘just in case’. Certainly worth keeping an eye on him, but there seems to be nothing really threatening happening with this particular bill as it stands.”

      Nelson did not file a bill to arrest someone. He filed a bill to change a phrase in an existing law. BTW, the text I quoted is from an “update” as the original article gave the wrong impression and someone added a correction, pointing out the mistake. QUEERTY’s statement about it was probably written before the update occurred.

      Feb 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jamesnimmo
      jamesnimmo

      The content of this shell bill has been changed. It’s now supposed to be about arresting people who owe child support when they move out of state.

      Why didn’t it say that in the first place? Why was marriage the target in the original submission?

      Feb 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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