marriage licenses

Another year, another state contemplating the idea of getting out of the marriage license business

Another year, another state contemplating the idea of getting out of the marriage license business

My mother was 17 and my father 19 when they went to a county courthouse — along with their parents because of my mom's age — to get a marriage license in 1964.

With that important piece of government paper in hand, a minister joined them in holy matrimony in a simple, living-room ceremony in their Missouri Bootheel hometown.

When my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2014, I wrote a Christian Chronicle column about their commitment to God and each other.

For the last two weeks, I've witnessed a new chapter of their "love story" at a Texas hospital. My dad is battling a severe case of pneumonia and a problem with his kidney function.

Night after night, Mom has slept (albeit not much) on a hospital couch to care for Dad. At this point, they are both beyond exhausted. And Dad is still hooked up to oxygen and having trouble breathing.

Suffice it to say that they took their marriage vows — sanctioned by their government and their faith — seriously.

But once again in 2018, some lawmakers are asking whether the government belongs in that equation at all. 

In 2015, my home state of Oklahoma made headlines when it contemplated getting out of the marriage license business. A similar proposal to end government-sanctioned marriage in Missouri drew attention last year. On the flip side, some religious leaders have refused in recent years to sign government marriage licenses — saying that's not their role.

Enter Alabama, which is considering similar legislation this session in response to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015.

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Hey Lexington Herald-Leader: This one phrase makes me question your impartiality on Kim Davis

Hey Lexington Herald-Leader: This one phrase makes me question your impartiality on Kim Davis

You remember Kim Davis, right?

As a self-described "foul-mouthed moderate" put it on Twitter, "She's that lady who refused to issue gay couples marriage licenses in Kentucky."

More precisely, as GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly notes, "Davis didn’t try to deny license. She just wanted to avoid being the person who had to sign it." 

If somehow her name doesn't ring a bell, we have a post or two — or 3 million — in our archive.

I bring her up because, well, she's back in the headlines again.

The news peg is simple: A gay man who unsuccessfully sought a marriage license from Davis has filed to run against her for Rowan County clerk. 

This is the headline — cue the clickbait — atop the Lexington Herald-Leader's story:

Kim Davis denied him a marriage license. Now he wants to take her job

Eventually, the Herald-Leader story will turn into what approaches an unpaid political advertisement for Davis' challenger, the fourth Democrat so far to enter the race. But up top, the report is straightforward and factual (albeit less than precise on how Davis phrased her position, as tmatt noted):

MOREHEAD — David Ermold, one of the men denied a same-sex marriage license by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in 2015, hopes to challenge her for the clerk’s seat next year, he announced Wednesday.
Davis set off an international furor when she denied a marriage license to Ermold and his partner, David Moore, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right for same-sex couples to marry.
Davis, who said providing the license violated her religious beliefs, continued to withhold the license, even after a federal judge ordered her to issue it, and was jailed briefly. The issue was solved when one of her deputies, Brian Mason, agreed to issue licenses, and in 2016 the Kentucky General Assembly established an alternate license.
Mason is still issuing same-sex marriage licenses, he said Wednesday.
“I am running to restore the confidence of the people in our clerk’s office and because I believe that the leaders of our community should act with integrity and fairness, and they should put the needs of their constituents first,” said Ermold, 43, who teaches English at the University of Pikeville and directs Morehead Pride, a local gay rights organization. “My commitment to Rowan County is to restore professional leadership, fairness, and responsibility to the clerk’s office. I will build upon the successes of the past, and I will seek solutions for the challenges we may still face.”

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Just in time for new year, one state debates ending government-sanctioned marriage

Just in time for new year, one state debates ending government-sanctioned marriage

Way back in 2004 — during Season 6 of the Emmy Award-winning television drama "The West Wing" — a congressman raised the idea of banning marriage. All marriage.

With two-thirds of Americans then opposed to same-sex nuptials, a gay Democrat identified as "Rep. Benoit" proposed getting the government out of the marriage business.

"If the government can't make it available to everyone, I want us out of the business entirely," Benoit said to Josh Lyman, chief political adviser in the fictional Josiah Bartlet administration. "Leave it to churches and synagogues, and, of course, casinos and department stores."

Lyman chuckled and brushed off the suggestion.

Fast-forward more than a decade: A majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court has legalized it. And amid ongoing battles pitting gay rights vs. religious liberty, some real-life lawmakers wonder if the answer might be removing the government from the process.

The Associated Press reports on a Missouri legislator's proposal to do just that:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri Republican saw last year's debate over a proposed constitutional amendment that would have protected businesses that deny services to same-sex couples bring lawmakers to tears and grind legislative work to a halt. His solution: Take state government out of marriage completely, for both gay and heterosexual couples.
"You can stop spending so much emotional energy on the issue, and we can move on to other things," state Rep. T.J. Berry said, adding, "I'm treating everybody the exact same way and leaving space for people to believe what they believe outside of government."
His bill, filed ahead of the 2017 legislative session, would make Missouri the first state to recognize only domestic unions for both heterosexual and same-sex couples, treating legal partnerships equally and leaving marriages to be done by pastors and other religious leaders.

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Ten religion stories that made us ooh, ah, chuckle, scratch our heads and otherwise go 'hmmm' in 2015

Ten religion stories that made us ooh, ah, chuckle, scratch our heads and otherwise go 'hmmm' in 2015

Religion news was heavy in 2015.

Heavy, as in weighty subject matter ranging from the legalization of same-sex marriage to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State terrorist group to the shooting deaths of nine worshipers in Charleston, S.C. 

But occasionally this past year — as is the case every year — the Godbeat blessed us with headlines that were a little different. They were heartwarming or quirky or simply far enough off the beaten path to catch our attention.

In chronological order, here are 10 of my favorite GetReligion posts from 2015 that concerned news that — surprise, surprise! — didn't make the Religion Newswriters Association's year-end list:

1. Lawmakers in my home state of Oklahoma made headlines as they considered — seriously, it seemed — getting out of the marriage business.


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Sign that marriage license? Ancient sacraments vs. battles over civil contracts

Sign that marriage license? Ancient sacraments vs. battles over civil contracts

This week's Crossroads podcast (click here to listen in) grew out of my latest "On Religion" column, rather than a GetReligion post, so here is a bit of background on the subject -- which is the growing debate about whether clergy in traditional faiths should continue to sign marriage licenses from the state.

If you want to know more, a good place to start is with "The Marriage Pledge," a document posted by the conservative, interfaith journal First Things. The key statement therein: "Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage."

At that point, move over and scan some of the short essays included in the journal's forum called "The Church and Civil Marriage," in which eight scholars and popular writers -- Evangelical, Orthodox, Jewish, Catholic -- debate the merits of religious congregations cutting the ties that bind their marriage rites to the current legal debates about marriage and sex.

As you do so, I hope you notice something interesting, which is that some people who are normally stuck under the simplistic "conservative" umbrella do not agree with one another on this issue. I will go further and say that there are progressive reasons, as well as conservative reasons, to separate civil unions and holy matrimony. This is -- no matter that the newspapers say -- not an issue that is simply left vs. right.

To demonstrate, let's play a game. The following quotations are from two Southern Baptist leaders. One is a progressive position and the other conservative. Which is which?

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News story or editorial? Reuters reports on that bill to eliminate all marriage (licenses) in Oklahoma

News story or editorial? Reuters reports on that bill to eliminate all marriage (licenses) in Oklahoma

In 2001, I became an ordained minister. Sort of.

I served as religion editor for The Oklahoman at the time and wrote a column about my experience:

It says so right there on the certificate with the official gold seal: "Reverend Bobby Ross."
My license from the Universal Life Church in Billings, Mont., came with a note that said, "Thank you for your purchase and God bless."
The best part: This high honor cost me only $29.95.
That's about the same amount Judas Iscariot accepted to betray Jesus Christ, as my friend Glover Shipp pointed out.
Perhaps, though, Shipp is looking at this the wrong way. He's assuming that anyone who offers to make you a "LEGALLY ORDAINED MINISTER in 48 hours!!!!" is a scam artist.
On the other hand, think of all the good I can do now.

Among the good that my ordination allowed me to do: perform weddings. (Sadly, no one ever asked me to provide that service.)

My column noted:

In Texas, your pet hamster can perform a wedding. But before you help someone say "I do" in Oklahoma, you must file credentials with the county clerk.

That piece was written 14 years ago, and I have no idea whether Texas law remains the same. So if you decide to exchange vows in the Lone Star State, you might check with proper government authorities before getting your hamster involved.

I thought about my quickie ordination this week as I read a Reuters editorial — er, news story — on an Oklahoma bill to eliminate government-issued marriage licenses.

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Oklahoma lawmakers contemplate eliminating all marriage — licenses, that is

Oklahoma lawmakers contemplate eliminating all marriage — licenses, that is

My wife, Tamie, and I lived together for 15 years and brought three precious babies into the world before we finally went to an Oklahoma county courthouse and got our marriage license in 2005. Since our local newspaper publishes the names and addresses of those granted licenses, we were a bit concerned about the scandal our late nuptials might create at church.

To anyone who asked, we shared our funny — and true — story.

That is, we exchanged our wedding vows in my wife's hometown church in 1990. A preacher pronounced us husband and wife. It's just that I graduated from Oklahoma Christian University the day before our wedding, and we ran out of time to get blood tests and complete the official government paperwork before we said "I do." Then we left on our honeymoon. And, well, we just never needed a marriage license until 2005, when it became important for a reason that escapes me now.

Despite our lack of a license, my wife and I — both raised in Churches of Christ — saw our marriage as a sacred commitment, as did our families. Not for a second did we consider living together out of wedlock. To say that religion played a key role in our view of marriage would be a huge understatement.

Perhaps Tamie and I were — besides being young, in love and stupid — 25 years ahead of our time?

Oklahoma lawmakers are making national headlines this week for considering — seriously, it seems — getting the state out of the marriage business.


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