Rep. Todd Russ is an ordained minister. His respect for the solemn institution of marriage is beyond questioning. But the social engineering efforts of the past have not helped support the stability of the family. It's time to remove some layers of burden and codify our statutes in a manner that all of Oklahoma can live with, peaceably.
It's time to restore the legislature's role in ways that federal courts have no jurisdiction to interfere. Our current marriage license form is not in compliance with our own statutes. Courts and state agencies have usurped the authority to direct policy on marriage licenses. The Marriage Freedom Act (HB1418) will direct Courthouses across the state to certify marriages similar to the way that births are certified.
Nearly 20 years ago, Gov. Frank Keating was confident that the power of government to perform social architectural feats was a laudable effort. He proceeded to spend state funds toward making the institution of marriage more enduring.
Oklahoma has historically been one of the most divorcing states in the nation. Today, after $70 million and 17 years of the "Covenant Marriage" state program, the state is still one of the top 5 for divorces.
In fact, several studies have shown a direct link between anti-poverty programs and one-parent households. Whereas couples used to stay together and work things out because they need each other economically; now social programs and spending are making divorce more lucrative than 'having the old man around'.
Some sociologists even contend that urban minority men have largely lost their social identity as fathers. Most of them have now been raised by single mothers and they often replaced the father figure in their lives with the gang identity.
Oklahoma Watch's Trevor Brown published a detailed report on the demise of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. Read it here...
Russ's bill would authorize the state to issue marriage certificates instead of licenses. Any legal couple could file for the certificates upon their signed affidavit at any county courthouse. No officiant would be required (although the couple could list the officiant if they included a ceremony of some kind).