Non-religious need not apply: A new bill in Missouri would redefine any marriage that take place outside of a church as a “domestic union.”
House Bill 1424, introduced by State Rep. T.J. Berry, a Republican lawmaker and ordained church deacon, would essentially restrict all marriage to people of faith by redefining any marriage not solemnized inside a church as a “domestic union.”
Pink News notes:
The bill would define marriage as being a union that takes place only in religious institutions.
Any marriages that were to take place outside of the church, for example in a registry office, would only be recognised as “domestic unions.”
Sponsors of the bill say that the change in definition would work to protect churches and businesses against “gay encroachment.”
David McAfee, writing for Friendly Atheist, spoke with Rep. Berry, a member and deacon at First Baptist Church of Kearney, Missouri. Berry admits that his bill was an attempt to redefine marriage in favor of churches, noting:
If someone wants to go through a religious ceremony they may go to the church that they feel comfortable with. If a couple wants to receive government benefits they would get a civil document from the government.
Supporters of the bill claim the new law redefining marriage would act as “a remedy to controversies across the country involving government employees who object to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for religious reasons.”
However, critics warn it would cause LGBT couples, as well as all other non-religious couples, a great deal of trouble.
Dion Wisniewski, executive director of the Missouri advocacy group The Center Project, says he is “irritated and frustrated” by the bill, noting:
No matter how much progress we make, there is always going to be a push from conservative groups to roll back protections for individuals or enact new laws to make it more difficult to live normal lives. Conservative groups are putting pressure on the legislature to protect the ‘biblical definition’ of marriage, even though they aren’t being forced to perform these services in most cases.
Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow explains that the new law would hurt LGBTQ married couples in the state, while noting that HB 1434 would “call into question all couples’ rights” who were not married in a house of worship:
It’s hard to believe [this legislation is] something most conservatives would support Most Americans think that marriage is an important institution, and they don’t want to get rid of it.
Bottom line: A new bill in Missouri would restrict marriage to people of faith by redefining all marriages that take place outside of a church as a “domestic union,” while defining marriage as being a union that takes place only in religious institutions.