Oklahoma voters will determine whether a ban on gay marriage should be added to the state constitution after the house voted overwhelmingly Thursday to send the issue to a statewide vote.
With little discussion and no debate, the house voted 92-4 in favor of sending to voters a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The proposed amendment further stipulates that gay marriages sanctioned in other states would not be recognized in Oklahoma and knowingly issuing a marriage license to a gay couple would be classified a misdemeanor.
The measure, which passed the senate last week on a 38-7 vote, now heads to the secretary of state's office, which will assign it a state question number. The language that appears on the ballot must also be approved by the attorney general's office.
Although Oklahoma law already prohibits gay marriages, supporters say a constitutional amendment will further strengthen that prohibition. The constitution can only be amended through a vote of the people. The question would require the approval of at least 50% of voters to be added to the Oklahoma constitution.
However, some opponents of the bill said that putting the issue on the general election ballot is a political maneuver to draw more conservative voters to the polls during a time when Democrats are looking to maintain control of the Oklahoma house and pick up a U.S. Senate seat. "I don't see the reason to do this, other than for political reasons," said Rep. Judy McIntyre, one of four house Democrats who voted against the bill.
McIntyre said she believes banning gay marriage is an infringement on the civil rights of gays. "These are people, regardless of their sexual orientation," McIntyre said. "If they choose to live that way and not break the law...then why not?"