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Backfire: Oklahoma GOP’s plan to block same-sex weddings could have the opposite effect

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Oklahoma’s conservative lawmakers, angered at being ordered by U.S. courts to allow gay marriage in the state, have come up with a new, religious tactic to block same-sex weddings by mandating that clergy conduct almost all ceremonies.

But in a twist, their efforts to restrict who can perform marriages could make it easier for gay couples to wed, and have led to what one activist calls “marriage chaos.”

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A bill overwhelmingly approved this month in the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives would allow only judges, retired judges and members of the clergy to issue marriage licenses, cutting county clerks out of the business.

Yet as the measure was making its way to the floor, a rush of same-sex marriage supporters applied to become ministers with the intention of registering as clergy authorized to perform weddings in the state.

“I registered so I could marry same-sex couples. I have the confirmation email. The Oklahoma County Courthouse site is very vague about the paperwork necessary to register,” said Rose Marie of Oklahoma City, who applied for her minister license online in February after the measure was first introduced.

As the tide has turned in favor of gay marriage in the United States, several socially conservative states have proposed legislation aimed at making it difficult for same-sex couples to marry. The Supreme Court is to take up the issue of whether states can ban gay marriage, which is now allowed in at least 36 states.

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Republican Representative Todd Russ, the author of the bill, has said he wants to take the state out of marriage and has pledged to “stand for godly values and godly leadership in government.”

“Oklahoma’s at the point where we have decided we are drawing a line today and sidestepping the government’s overreach,” Russ said. The Oklahoma Senate is due to consider the bill later this year.

Atheists and agnostics in Oklahoma are not pleased at the prospect of almost all marriages being placed in the hands of clergy.

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Freedom Oklahoma, which supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community, said lawmakers have not come to grips with the consequences. It calls the measure confusing and a violation of the separation of church and state.

“The way this law is written makes it anti-marriage. It’s equally harmful and hurts everyone,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma.

“Theoretically, this bill gives legal status to same-sex marriage, but the bill is so bipolar. If you are a nonbeliever … it could take months to find someone who could perform your marriage.

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“We call it the ‘marriage chaos’ bill,” Stevenson said.Stevenson said some clergy also are not happy about taking on responsibilities that once were managed by county clerks. The measure calls for marriage to be performed or solemnized by a judge, retired judge, preacher, minister, rabbi, or ecclesiastical dignitary.

“They (clergy) work for Jesus, not Oklahoma,” Stevenson said.

Legal experts said if the state tries to set regulations on what religions’ clergy it sees as legitimate, Oklahoma could run afoul of U.S. constitutional requirements that forbid the government from establishing religion.

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Eric Thompson, an Oklahoma real estate agent who supports same-sex marriage, feels the bill is overly intrusive and became an ordained minister because of it.

“If this bill passes, I would put it out there to everyone that I could perform same-sex ceremonies,” Thompson said.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Jonathan Oatis)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Donald Trump is making a mockery of Marco Rubio — and the Florida senator is letting him

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Sen. Marco Rubio was once one of Donald Trump’s most formidable opponents; now, the Florida senator bends over backward to excuse the president’s corruption.

In 2016, Rubio and Trump sparred frequently on the Republican primary debate stage. Trump picked the uninspired nickname “Little Marco” for the senator, which didn’t seem to do much damage on its own, but Rubio never gained the momentum or strength that his backers hoped would prove to be strong enough to take down the reality TV candidate. As Rubio grew desperate, he launched one of his most memorable and pitiful attacks by stooping to his opponent’s level, implying that Trump had a small penis. It was more of an embarrassing moment for Rubio than anyone else, though Trump helped himself with a crude rejoinder.

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The faith of Fox News: How the network’s propaganda warps viewers’ sense of reality

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A longtime sticking point among Fox News employees is their insistent differentiation between its news division, where employees practice actual journalism, and its opinion division, where employees practice actual nativism, spew misinformation, and have been actively campaigning for Donald Trump’s re-election since 2016.  Inside the organization, they claim to believe that the news side is separate from the opinion side, and insist that the audience can tell the difference.

News anchor Shepard Smith once characterized comparing the two as “apples and teaspoons.”

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2020 Election

Maddow warns Russia is interfering in the 2020 election in ‘exactly the same way’ as they did in 2016

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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday warned that Russia and the Republicans are running the "exact same play" against Democrats in 2020 -- and this time will be aided by the United States Justice Department.

"And they are playing it again already for the next election. And some of it is happening just like it did in 2016. And some of it is worse and I think it’s going to be more powerful than it was in 2016. In part because this is a second draft for these guys, right? They ran this play in 2016. They worked out some of the kinks," she explained. "Now they’ll do it again with the benefit of knowing what worked for them and what didn’t work the first time around. It’s a second draft. It’s going to be better and more polished."

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