At least one member of the Oklahoma House is now prepared to join fellow legislators in South Carolina and Texas willing to prohibit salaries to judges and other state or local employees who recognize same sex marriage licenses. However, the Oklahoma plan goes further and contemplates outright removing judges from office.
No employee of this state and no employee of any local governmental entity shall officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license and continue to receive a salary, pension
or other employee benefit at the expense of taxpayers of this state.
The Oklahoma bill, however, goes further than either the South Carolina (which only threatened the judge with forced recusal cases involving same sex marriage licensees) or Texas (which was silent) and specifically makes such recognitions an offense subjecting the judge to removal from office
If a judge violates this act, the judge shall be removed from office pursuant to Section 1 of Article VIIA of the Oklahoma Constitution.
That particular section does not refer to the state’s impeachment of judges (Article VIII); perhaps because it is not 100% clear the state legislature could impeach a local trial judge. Instead, the bill uses the state’s judicial disciplinary body (Court on the Judiciary) as the method of removal for “judges of any court.”
§ 1. Removal of judges from office – Compulsory retirement – Causes.
(a) In addition to other methods and causes prescribed by the Constitution and laws, the judges of any court, exercising judicial power under the provisions of Article VII, or under any other provision, of the Constitution of Oklahoma, shall be subject to removal from office, or to compulsory retirement from office, for causes herein specified, by proceedings in the Court on the Judiciary.
(b) Cause for removal from office shall be: Gross neglect of duty; corruption in office; habitual drunkenness; commission while in office of any offense involving moral turpitude; gross partiality in office; oppression in office; or other grounds as may be specified hereafter by the legislature.
Like the Texas and South Carolina bills, Oklahoma HB 1599 also purports to make the law itself immune from constitutional challenge by prohibiting state judges from overturning it
The courts of this state shall dismiss any challenge to any portion of the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, with an award of costs and attorney fees to defendants.
HB 1599 has been prefiled for the 2015 session set to start on February 2.