State Representative Sally Kern, a Republican from the Oklahoma City area, filed three different bills aimed against LGBT individuals on January 22.
One of them would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and groups. Kern has already withdrawn this particular bill.
A second bill, titled “The Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act,” states that Oklahomans have a right to undergo “conversion therapy,” a largely discredited method of changing one’s sexual orientation. It also allows parents to seek it for their children.
The final bill, “The Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act,” would effectively nullify recent court decisions that make Oklahoma recognize same-sex marriage. Advocates of LGBT rights oppose these measures for obvious reasons, but social conservatives should oppose them as well.
The Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act is completely unnecessary. Conversion therapy, despite being widely discredited, is still legal in Oklahoma. True, a few states have banned it, but most have not. All this law does is codify what is already the case.
However, in codifying the legality of conversion therapy, the state invites more controversy. It could only serve to inflame its opponents. These opponents would likely not stop at repeal of the law.
Some consider conversion therapy to be a form of child abuse. Rather than maintaining conversion therapy’s legality, it’s more likely that the explicit recognition would create a backlash that would result in court action and the possible banning of the practice altogether.
It cannot be understated how legally absurd the Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act is. The bill bans tax dollars from being used to issue same-sex marriage licenses. It also provides that any government official who recognizes the legality of same-sex marriage would lose his salary and pension. Judges who recognize same-sex marriage would be removed from office.
This completely ignores the longstanding doctrine of judicial supremacy. Rightly or wrongly, federal courts have already ruled that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Any attempt to ignore that ruling and proceed with banning it again stands absolutely zero chance of being upheld in federal court.
I agree that the original intent of the 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, was not to mandate that states recognize gay marriage. However, attempts to ignore federal court rulings are at least as offensive to the constitutional order as are judicial decrees of new constitutional doctrine that lack historical context.
Going forward, there are only two ways that Oklahoma won’t have to recognize same-sex marriage. The first is a constitutional amendment, which is extremely unlikely. The more likely (though not necessarily likely) scenario is that the Supreme Court overturns those decisions later this year.
If conservatives really care about the Constitution, they should abandon these ridiculous bills immediately.