Critics say lawmakers waste tax dollars fighting gay marriage

Critics say lawmakers waste tax dollars fighting gay marriage

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After Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban was recently declared unconstitutional, a state representative wants the people of Oklahoma to be able to stand up against the decision. But, some critics say he's wasting the state's time and money.

Representative Mike Turner took a bill that was recently struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, and he changed two words-- "this state" to "Oklahoma" and filed it as his own. The original bill called for Oklahomans to be able to re-vote for what their definition of marriage is-- as being between one man and woman. Rep. Turner's House Joint Resolution 1076 does the same, but he says it's a "shell bill," meaning it's basically sitting in waiting. "All I did was become proactive as a legislator in this environment of Federal intrusion," says Rep. Turner, (R)- Edmond. As a "shell bill," Rep. Turner says it's basically a place-holder and will do nothing, unless the Federal courts make a decision this legislative session, at which point he would amend it and push it through. "If it so happens to be during this session time, we now have a vehicle that we're able to go and respond," he says.

"I think he's going to end up getting us into another lawsuit that's going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in the court system," counters David Slane, Fox 25 legal analyst. Slane says Oklahoma is already taking up the cost for the first bill that was struck down as unconstitutional. He says Oklahoma legislators frequently blatantly file unconstitutional bills that rack up legal fees for the state. "The Federal Court has already said (Oklahoma's gay marriage ban) is unconstitutional under the United States Constitution, and the United States Constitution is higher than the Oklahoma Constitution," says Slane.

"This has cost nothing. By filing this bill, it's cost absolutely nothing," Rep. Turner disagrees. He says because it's a "shell bill," it won't be voted on or even reach the ballot, so it's not costing taxpayer's a penny. Rep. Turner says the bill will likely die, and he says he has no intention of running it as is. He says the only reason he would run the bill would be if the Federal Courts made a decision this session. "I can't help but laugh at the foolishness of thinking that we're going to run language that was just struck down by the Federal Court," says Rep. Turner, continuing to argue that it's costing taxpayers nothing. "It hasn't been brought out of rules committee. It hasn't been voted on in the house, and it hasn't been voted on in the Senate. And, it hasn't gone to the governor to be signed," he says.

"He may certainly be filing it as a "shell bill," but he knows what he intends to do with it. It has a number. It can be brought up at any time during the legislature. He's in waiting and he's ready to go with it in a moment's notice, and it's that political grandstanding-- to say 'Look what I'm doing!'-- that costs us literally hundreds of thousands of tax dollars," counters Slane, who doesn't believe that Rep. Turner has no intention of pushing the bill through. Referring to the first bill, Slane says, "That case will go all the way to the United States Supreme Court and will cost the taxpayers of Oklahoma 2, 3, 4-thousand dollars by the time it's said and done. Just like the 10 Commandments statue... it wasn't going to cost us any money either, but now it's being played out in the courthouse.

"Just filing something like this costs funds. Somebody has to make the copies. Somebody has to do the data entry. Someone has to do the publishing of these things," adds Scott Hamilton, Executive Director of the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center. "To spend money on something that will go nowhere is just a very, very misguided attempt. We can't afford to put storm shelters in our schools. We can't afford to feed hungry children, but we can afford to spend state money, not only in pushing something like this forward, but then ultimately having to defend it in court," says Hamilton. "A shell bill is designed to be able to craft later on," he adds, saying he doesn't believe that Turner is just going to let the bill die.

"If you don't intend to do something, don't waste tax dollars filing it in and having it there," adds Slane.

But, Rep. Turner says he is just doing his job. "My constituents voted me to come up with ideas, generate ideas, be proactive," he says.

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