The Missouri Legislature reconvened this week, and there are already four anti-LGBT bills on the docket for consideration.
Senate Bill 690 and House Bill 1755 both aim to bar trans people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity, while HB 1763 would allow wedding officiants to turn away same-sex couples. But the most alarming is House Bill 1434, which would completely redefine the institution of marriage in the state, replacing it with “contracts of domestic union.”
We thought it was gay people trying to redefine marriage?
State Rep. T.J. Berry (R-Kearney) has introduced HB 1434 two years running, and prefiled to have it considered in a third time in 2018. It’s an end-run around Obergefell v. Hodges: Instead of stopping gay people from getting married, it takes the government out of the institution and leaves it entirely in the hands of religious institutions.
The measure would protect churches and private businesses that refuse gay weddings, but it also removes the (now-unconstitutional) section of Missouri law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. According to Berry, an ordained Southern Baptist deacon, HB 1434 would also preserve any government benefits that apply to married couples, gay and straight alike.
The state’s role in marriage would be limited to recording such contracts and ensuring that anyone entering into them meets certain criteria. (Incest and bigamy woulds till be prohibited, and both parties would still have to be 15 or older.) All mentions of “marriage” would be switched with “contracts of domestic union.” and references to unmarried persons would be changed to “not party to a contract of domestic union.”
“By limiting the state’s role in marriage, the legislation would allow Missourians to structure their personal relationships as they see fit without interference or approval from the government,” writes T.J. Martinnell on the Tenth Amendment Center website.
But it could lead to chaos for married Missourians: Imagine trying to file your taxes as a married couple—or taking out a bank loan?
HB1434 is currently in committee, where it needs to pass by a majority before moving forward to a full House vote. Also on the slate for this year is the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBT Missourians. It has been introduced every session for the past 20 years, but was heard on the House floor for the first time in 2016.