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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.

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.”

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“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.

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.

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“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)


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2020 Election

Donald Trump Jr rants ‘stupid’ CNN has done more damage to elections than the Russians

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President Donald Trump's eldest son complained that CNN was attempting to undermine democracy by reporting on Russian election interference.

The network, like other U.S. media outlets, has reported on efforts by the Kremlin to influence the 2020 election, just as U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement agree Russia did during the 2016 election.

Donald Trump Jr. -- who infamously accepted an invitation during his father's first campaign to hear dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer -- accused CNN of manipulating the election by reporting those Russian efforts.

"CNN is so stupid they don’t even understand the irony of how they’ve done more damage than any 'Russian operation' could ever have dreamed," Trump Jr tweeted, in response to a conservative blogger. "The media has done one hell of a job these past 4 years in attempting to deligitmize [sic] our election process."

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Trump has ‘never been more dangerous’ because he knows no one will stop his lawlessness: columnist

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President Donald Trump's poll numbers have risen since his acquittal by the United States Senate, and New York Magazine columnist Eric Levitz argues that this means he's "never been more dangerous."

In his column, Levitz points to reports that Trump is conducting a systematic purge of government officials whom he believes are "disloyal" to him as evidence that he has only been emboldened by getting let off the hook for both potential criminal obstruction of justice in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, and for his attempt to extort the Ukrainian government for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Trump leveled by Dem lawmaker for purging ‘disloyal’ officials so he can surround himself with a ‘team of sycophants’

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Appearing on CNN's 'New Day," with host Alisyn Camerota, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) hammered President Donald Trump for ordering the purge of government employees and appointees deemed disloyal to his administration -- saying the president wants to surround himself with a collection of yes men and women.

Reacting to a report from Axios that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has compiled a list of Trump-supporting fringe characters like former Sheriff David Clarke and Fox News personality Dan Bongino for high-profile administration positions, the Democrat expressed his disgust.

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