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In an extraordinary step and one that show just how nasty conservative Christianity has become in the US – the State of Oklahoma has just passed a law in its lower house to ban marriage for atheists.

Todd RussIf passed by Oklahoma’s senate, Bill1125 will mean that no secular marriage licences will be issued. All marriage licences will have to be approved by a member of the clergy. Under the proposal from Republican State Representative Todd Russ ( left), a marriage would have to be signed off by a preacher, minister, priest, rabbi or ecclesiastical dignitary (no marriage celebrants or judges here)  – which would effectively restrict the right to marry to Christians and Jews.

About non-believers Russ said: “They don’t have a spiritual basis for a marriage and don’t want to have a clergy member or a priest or someone involved in the spiritual aspect, then they can file an affidavit of common-law marriage.”

(Except that, in an absurd twist, the State of Olkahoma doesn’t recognise common-law marriage.)

The gay community sees the new law aimed directly at them. As Russ says, he wants to to protect court clerks from having to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Russ says he doesn’t want these workers put in the position of having to condone or facilitate same-sex marriage.

What it means for marriages in a faith other than Christian or Jew – say Hindu, Muslim and the rest – is anyone’s guess.

“As it is, House Bill 1125 is Christian bigotry, pure and simple. The bill is a naked attempt to force Christian theocracy upon the citizens of Oklahoma.
A toxic combination of anti-gay discrimination and discrimination against non-theists, the bill is emblematic of the dangerous and hateful nature of conservative Christianity in America,” says Michael Stone writing in the Progressive Secular Humanist.

Oklahomans for Equality described the proposal as an “all-out assault on the LGBT citizens of Oklahoma.”

The proposal has been called ” A scandal. An outrage!” by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“Of course, this bizarre proposal, should it pass, would likely fare poorly in court,” writes Sarah Jones.

“Strike one: Russ clearly has sectarian motivations for proposing the bill, which violates the First Amendment. Strike two: The bill would violate the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment by disenfranchising all marriages performed by non-religious celebrants and, possibly, religious celebrants who aren’t Christian or Jewish.

But Russ doesn’t seem to care about the Constitution or a significant number of his constituents. It’s patently absurd that the quest to “defend marriage” has now manifested itself in a proposal that would strip the right away from anyone outside two preferred religious traditions.”

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