Oklahoma House committee asks Congress to ban gay marriage

Monday, February 9th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State lawmakers, concerned that court rulings in other states could lead to same-sex marriages in Oklahoma, asked Congress Monday to get involved and pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Without opposition, members of the House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution by Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, that calls on Congress to hold hearings on the impact of a proposed federal Defense of Marriage Act.

A lobbyist for the America Civil Liberties Union, Keith Smith, called the resolution ``a horrendous concept.''

``That's one of the worst things they can do,'' Smith said. He has said the ACLU opposes any measure to amend the Constitution to discriminate against anyone.

``It's already illegal in Oklahoma. The U.S. Constitution affects all 50 states,'' Smith said.

The measure, which now goes to the full House for action, is among the first in the nation seeking congressional action following a ruling last week by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that said gay couples are entitled to nothing less than marriage.

Oklahoma law already denies recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. But lawmakers are concerned that fallout from rulings elsewhere could spill over into Oklahoma and believe more needs to be done to protect the sanctity of marriage.

Rep. Thad Balkman, author of a similar resolution, said it is important that Congress take action. The court rulings have left states divided over what the institution of marriage should mean.

``It's a federal issue,'' said Balkman, R-Norman. He said congressional action would supersede any authority granted by individual states.

``I think it's the only sure way that we protect marriage in Oklahoma,'' Balkman said.

The congressional measure, House Joint Resolution 56 by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., states that ``marriage shall consist of a union of a man and woman.''

Hamilton said her resolution tracks language recommended by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other groups that support traditional marriage.

Republican legislative leaders have accused Democrats of setting the state up for a court ruling permitting gay marriages.

Senate Minority Leader James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa, has said an ``activist'' state judge could always overturn the law. He said constitutional amendments outlawing gay marriage should be passed at both the state and federal levels.

A resolution by Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Enid, would place the matter of gay marriage before a vote of the people. Williamson has filed a similar measure calling for a state Constitutional amendment declaring marriage as the union between a man and a woman.