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Another Angry Oklahoma Bigotry Bill

Image of wedding cake decoration from Flickr’s The Commons

Well, if gay people are allowed to get legally married to one another in Oklahoma then no one will be allowed to get legally married. So there. Haha. Gotcha.

That seems to be the playground mentality of state Rep. Todd Russ, a Cordell Republican, and 66 of his fellow legislators in the Oklahoma House of Representatives who voted last week to essentially end the marriage-license process in Oklahoma.

House Bill 1125 passed on a 67-24 vote last week. The bill was written for discriminatory purposes, it’s sexist, it’s unconstitutional, it could open up unintended possibilities, including the denial of federal rights and benefits for married couples, and it’s another embarrassment for a state right now in the glaring national spotlight for an ugly act of racism on the SAE hate bus.

HB 1125 is another deliberate act of bigotry that is getting widespread national attention. Fittingly, the bill is so confusing, it might actually help solidify same-sex marriage in Oklahoma, but its intention and possible consequences render that a moot point.

The bill would abolish the marriage license process in Oklahoma and replace it with marriage certificates that would be filed with the government AFTER a clergy member or anyone allowed by law to perform marriages does so. So county clerks or the government would still be involved in marriage regulation, but in a rather ambiguous and unsure manner.

Russ, who has made it clear the bill reflects his stance against same-sex marriage, has been obfuscating with the media about his reasoning behind the legislation. He says the state’s county clerks are caught in some type of “middle” when it comes to same-sex marriage, which is now legal in Oklahoma. What that middle is seems very vague. Is it that they don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners? That appears to be Russ’s argument. Oh those poor, poor county clerks. So which clerks and employees in their offices don’t want to do issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners? I want to see the list.

Never mind. See, these clerks and their employees have to issue the licenses. That’s the law. They would have to file the certificates after the marriage so what’s the point? What does Oklahoma County Clerk Carolynn Caudill think about all this?

Here are some obvious problems with the bill. (1) It would put into jeopardy or at least confusion the legality of marriage in Oklahoma. (2) It’s inherently sexist because mothers and children might not have protection or could wind up with less protection under the law. (3) The federal government and other states might not recognize the certificates as binding, and thus everything from filing “married” and claiming dependent children on tax returns to moving away from this bigotry to California could get extremely complicated.

All for those poor county clerks caught in the muddle or do I mean middle? This bill is a joke, right? No, folks, it is an actual bill that passed that Oklahoma House of Representatives as the state pretty much made the national television news each night last week for its bus of bigotry.

Russ blusters, “Marriage was historically a religious covenant first and a government-recognized contract second. Under my bill, the state is not allowing or disallowing same-sex marriage. It is simply leaving it up to the clergy.”

There are plenty of Oklahoma clergy members and other people who can legally perform marriages that will marry same-sex couples, which makes Russ and those legislators who voted for the bill seem terribly petty and bigoted.

And, yes, the government eventually became involved in the marriage licensing process for a number of reasons, including the legal protection of dependent children. In addition, marriage licensing in Western culture has been around at least since the fourteenth-century in England. Prior to licensing there were marriage banns, which was the public announcement of a marriage. Even churches long ago recognized the “public” side of marriage.

If signed into law, it will be ruled unconstitutional by courts just based on its intention and its violation of the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution. How much will that lawsuit cost taxpayers?

Oklahoma Teachers Deserve A Break

Image from Old American Century

Catch my latest post in The Lost Ogle.

It’s about a bill that seems designed to simply hassle teachers who are members of professional organizations, such as the Oklahoma Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. House Bill 1749, if signed into law, would prohibit the state from automatically deducting dues for these organizations from teachers’ paychecks.

Here’s a segment of the post:

Here are just a few of the ways teachers, who simply want a livable wage and decent working conditions, “go against the people of Oklahoma”:

They teach children here to read.
They teach children here how to write.
They teach children here how to do basic math.
They teach children here basic scientific methods.

I know the whole science thing rankles many of today’s Oklahoma lawmakers, especially when it comes to studying the reasons for all our earthquakes and climate change, and maybe that includes Newell and Dahm. I don’t know. We do need doctors in the state, especially in rural Oklahoma, and better medical outcomes.

The bill is at least tangentially related to the primarily conservative-backed movement to “reform” public schools, which includes a push for private-school vouchers and an emphasis on high-stakes testing, which damages the reputation and can throw into chaos schools with the most low-income students. Some proponents of this movement argue teachers’ unions are the main obstacle to children’s education.

Here's the link: Here’s another reason for teachers to leave Oklahoma.

Is Fallin ACA Op-Ed A Signal?

Image of Gov. Mary Fallin

“We hope that Congress would offer targeted, temporary relief for people to maintain their current coverage while we work together on free-market, consumer-friendly solutions for the future.”—Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin in a recent opinion article in the Tulsa World

Is Gov. Mary Fallin signaling to the U.S. Supreme Court that she and other Republican governors actually want it to uphold the tax-credit features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while saving political face with their voter bases?

It sure seems that way, and it’s incredibly hypocritical and crass politics at its most manipulative. In a recent opinion piece, Fallin argued if the court finds for the plaintiff in King versus Burwell, she wants “relief” for Oklahomans now covered under the ACA, which mean, in effect, she wants it to continue at least temporarily. The word “relief” is an important one for its symbolic connotations.

Look at the circumstances. Fallin is a second-term lame duck governor, who hasn’t really expressed an interest in running for office again. She’s also from one of the reddest states in the nation. Fallin can simply qualify her argument while giving cover to other Republican governors, who are still politically viable.

Are you listening, SCOTUS, are you listening?

The court has heard arguments over whether people should qualify for tax credits when they buy insurance under (ACA) in those states that didn’t establish health care exchanges. It’s a bizarre, right-wing quibble. The law states the tax credits will come from “an Exchange established by the State.” In context, it should be clear that by the State (note the caps), the law means the entire federal government, along with states, but conservatives ague the language means those credits should only go to people in “states” (note the lower case) that established exchanges.

Most states—34 of them in all, which includes Oklahoma—did not establish exchanges but millions of people who live in these states have bought health insurance through “the State” or the federal exchange and received tax credits through the Internal Revenue Service. That includes nearly 125,000 Oklahomans, according to recent media reports.

Fallin, of course, criticized the ACA in her commentary, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed lawsuits against it. But she’s clear on this point:

We hope that Congress would offer targeted, temporary relief for people to maintain their current coverage while we work together on free-market, consumer-friendly solutions for the future.

In other words, please continue the ACA until we find something better, but Republicans don’t have a viable plan upon which they can agree and never will. Everyone on the court knows that. The ACA already offers “free market and consumer-friendly solutions.” It’s certainly not the universal, single payer system this country so desperately needs.

It’s clear if Republicans are successful with the court in cutting the health insurance of some portion of more than 11 million people, they will face a political disaster. Locally, it might just make more of those 125,000 Oklahoman vote, and they would have a good reason to vote against Republicans for ruining their health care. At the same time, these Republicans have demonized the ACA so much, they risk looking like tremendous hypocrites if they just simply conceded that the ACA is working.

Some might think my interpretation of Fallin’s editorial on the larger, national political level is a stretch, but as much energy as she and Pruitt have used criticism of the ACA as a political cudgel and to win votes, she sure comes across as the ultimate hypocrite.

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