Fact Check

Oklahoma Bans Civil Marriage?

Rumor: The state of Oklahoma has banned civil marriage.

Published Mar 12, 2015


Claim:   The state of Oklahoma has banned civil marriage.


FALSE:   The state of Oklahoma has banned civil marriage.
TRUE:   The Oklahoma House has passed a bill placing authority for marriages with clergy rather than civil authorities.

Example:   [Collected via Twitter, March 2015]

Oklahoma just took away marriage rights to non-Christians. That's a HUGE step in the ENTIRELY wrong direction.


Origins:   On 10 March 2015, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 1125 [PDF] by a 67-24 vote (with ten abstentions). The legislation, authored by State Representative Todd Russ, shifts the issuance of marriage licenses from the state to members of the clergy. Russ explained that the bill was designed to exempt government from facilitating same-sex marriages, saying:

The point of my legislation is to take the state out of the process and leave marriage in the hands of the clergy. 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.

Critics of the bill cited unintended consequences of its implementation (such as the potential for the incidental legalization of plural marriage and the marriage of minors), as well as doubts about its overall constitutionality:

Supporters of HB 1125 said it fittingly removes the state from the marriage process.

"Marriage was not instituted by government," said Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan. "It was instituted by God. There is no reason for Oklahoma or any state to be involved in marriage."

Johnson did allow, however, that the state does have an interest in preventing such things as incest, polygamy and marriage of minors.

Some Democratic state legislators argued that Russ’ House Bill 1125 may have the unintended effect of preventing the state from stopping polygamy or bigamy practices. As drafted, the bill would eliminate from Oklahoma law the words that define marriage as being "with a person of the opposite sex."

Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, and Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, suggested that preventing those things might be harder to do under Russ' proposal because court clerks would no longer be in position to require proof of identity and age.

Although HB 1125 passed the Oklahoma House on 10 March 2015, the legislation remains pending in the state's Senate.

Last updated:   12 March 2015


    Broyles, Abby.   "Controversial Marriage License Bill Passes House, Headed to Senate."

    KFOR.   11 March 2015.

    Ellis, Randy.   "House Passes Bill to Abolish Oklahoma Marriage Licenses."

    The Oklahoman.   10 March 2015.

    Krehbiel, Randy.   "Oklahoma House Votes to Do Away with State Marriage Licenses."

    Tulsa World.   10 March 2015.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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