Sunday, February 22, 2015

Religion in Marriage

A Bill was recently proposed in Oklahoma that would put severe restrictions on marriages in the state. House Bill 1125 would require a clergy or religious leader’s signature on a marriage license. This would eliminate the use of judges or state officials in performing marriage ceremonies. In order for a couple to be married, they would have to have a religious leader tied to their marriage license. This creates a difficult situation for same-sex couples, couples who have minority religious preferences, or atheist couples. Couples would need the signature of, ““…an ordained or authorized preacher or minister of the Gospel, priest or other ecclesiastical dignitary of any denomination who has been duly ordained or authorized by the church to which he or she belongs to preach the Gospel, or a rabbi.” This seems to discriminate not only against those who are not religious, but also those whose religions do not have a such individual.

The reasoning for this Bill is to return marriage to its traditional definition. Rep. Russ said, “Put it back to what it was supposed to be and was originally a holy matrimony and a very solemn and spiritual vow.”

If a couple chooses not to get a religious signature, they do have the option of obtaining a common-law marriage license, however, common-law marriages in Oklahoma do not ensure all of the benefits that a marriage does. This means that couples that choose not to have their marriage signed off on (or couples whose marriage is not approved by clergy and therefore they could not obtain the signature) would be at a severe disadvantage.

This indirectly discriminates not only against same sex couples, who are generally not accepted by mainstream religious sects, but nonreligious people as well. This Bill clearly violates the Establishment Clause because it would result in “excessive government entanglement” by making a religious signature mandatory in a governmental marriage license. 

There is also no secular purpose for passing the law and therefore the Bill violates the separation of church and state. The only purpose of this Bill is to bring religion into state affairs.

In my opinion, this Bill should not be allowed to pass. Our marriages should be secular, as should our bodies that pass laws, whether they be at the federal level or the state level. Governments exist to be the voice of the people, not to restrict the rights of its citizens for religious, not secular reasons.  


Do you think that this advances religion in state affairs? Furthermore, what issues, if any, do you find with this Bill?

10 comments:

brian regan said...

I agree that this bill is unconstitutional and believe it would fail the first two out of three components of the Lemon Test. For starters, the bill does not have a secular purpose because it is stating that a religious official must sign off on a marriage to make it official. Second, it certainly advances religion in the state because everyone who wants to get married must now have a religious official to make it happen. Therefore, i believe this bill should be struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause.

Morgan M said...

I agree with the author and believe that this bill clearly violates the separation of church and state. I understand that marriage is a deeply religious ceremony and that couples could still apply for the common law marriage but there are so many benefits that the state allows with a normal marriage that I do not think it would be fair for people to have to sign off on their marriages. Marriage has come a long way from the traditional sense and I think that our states and government have the right to recognize the more secular purpose of marriage now and not discriminate against those who do not have a strictly religious reasons for marriage. This bill would also directly aid religions as they would be providing benefits that others whom are not religious would not be allowed to have. Such a discrimination would clearly aid those who are religious and may punish non religious people to seek out churches in order to receive state benefits they were previously entitled to.

Trevor T said...

I agree with the author. The bill clearly is unconstitutional and violates multiple aspects of the Lemon test. The state of Oklahoma is establishing religion in government, which is against the first amendment. The bill clearly discriminates on people who are of minority religions, same sex couples, or atheists. Oklahoma shouldn’t have a write to tell people “how marriage is supposed to be” based on their own religious views because not everyone shares those views and therefore don’t abide by the same definitions. Clergy leader’s signature on marriage licenses would be a direct involvement of the church in state affairs and discriminate on many different groups of people to receive the benefits of a legally licensed marriage. There is clear entanglement and there is lack of secular purpose for this bill. I think this bill is unconstitutional and fundamentally wrong.

Alex L. said...

I concur with Courtney in reasoning that this is unconstitutional. While marriage can be extremely religious as Morgan points out it can also be non-religious. When using the Lemon Test as Brian does above it becomes evident that this law is rooted in religion and does not serve a true secular legislative purpose. In addition, it advances religion as it forces people to reach out to the approved clergy or religious figures to get their signature. Furthermore, denying a Judge the ability to wed individuals seems to fundamentally weaken a position that should be regarded as powerful and have oversight over these sorts of matters.

Sam Cohen said...

I agree with you Courtney and I think that your point about non-religious couples or individuals is the most important one. Religion and non-religion must be treated equally, something that both the government and Supreme Court have generally accepted. It is interesting to me that this is an existing bill, as it contradicts the trend of states legalizing gay marriage. The trend in our country continues to be pro gay-marriage, but this bill would certainly go against that trend since its purpose is to return to traditional ways. I question the word traditional because of its subjectivity. Traditional to who? There are many flaws in this bill and I hope that it gets denied.

Molly H. said...

I do not agree with the passing of this bill and also believe it is unconstitutional. Rep. Russ's reasoning for the passing of the bill, to return marriage to it's traditional purpose, does not agree with the rapidly changing definition of marriage. Today, people of different races, gender identities, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs are marrying regardless of their faith. By requiring a religious leader to provide a signature on their marriage certificates, many couples would be going against their own personal morals or wishes solely because the state of Oklahoma wants their marriage to appear "traditional". As other commenters have stated, this bill would not pass the Lemon Test. By requiring couples to receive a signature from a religious leader permitting their marriage, the government is obviously putting religion before law.

Libby W said...

I fully agree that this bill is clearly unconstitutional. There is no secular purpose at all and brings religion into a governmental process. This would not be as big of a deal if those who did not want/could not get the signature would still have the same benefits as those who did get the signature, but those without the signature are at a severe disadvantage, clearly discriminating against the groups mentioned. I think the law by itself is unconstitutional because it brings church and state together, and also in practice it is discriminatory in nature. The bill has no true purpose and should not be passed.

Will P. said...

This bill is clearly in violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment. As you stated, it clearly breaches the Lemon Test's clause of excessive entanglement. The bill is a direct attempt to return marriage to what many religions would consider to be traditional and acceptable, between a man and woman. This bill discriminates deeply against those who are not religious, or are in the minority. The lack of consistent government benefits for all marriages due to a lack of a religious members signature is an excess entanglement of church and state. I don't believe that Love and Marriage should be regulated by the government to the extend of whose marriage is deemed appropriate or legal.

Ben K. said...

This bill in Oklahoma should not be passed in my opinion. On face, this law seems to impose neutrality between all religions and sexual orientations with the addition of the option to get a common-law marriage. However, by making the common law marriages second class to religious marriages, the state is imposing their power in favor of religions. This is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. As such, even if this bill does make it through the Oklahoma legislature, it could be tried in court and would be struck down. If all the benefits of religious marriages were the same as that of common-law, on face, this bill would be upholding neutrality of religion and sexual orientation.

Nate McGuinness said...

I agree the proposed bill is unconstitutional, furthermore the argument authored by its proponent is not a strong one, basically professing that the action has merit simply because it used to be the case does not hold much weight. Also it is clearly a form of entanglement no matter which way you look at it, the state imposing a religious practice to be infused in what could normally be almost a strictly secular/legal one. This bill clearly is trying to discriminate against homosexual couples and those who are not religious, and I do no believe that by not passing this bill the state would be in any way inhibiting religion since those that do wish to incorporate clergymen/religious practices will still be allowed to do so, clearly a less discriminatory route.