Under a proposed bill introduced in Oklahoma, couples in the state who want to get married would be required to prove they don’t have any sexually transmitted infections before they’re allowed to say “I do.”
Senate Bill 733, introduced by Oklahoma Sen. Anthony Sykes (R), stipulates that “the State Board of Health shall require a blood test for the discovery of syphilis and other communicable or infectious diseases prior to the issuance of a marriage license.” In order to obtain the license, the couple would need to submit a certificate or affidavit from a licensed physician that confirms neither of them are infected with a disease that “may be communicable to the marriage partner.”
As the bill is currently written, if either partner tests positive, they may not be permitted to get married.
Some of Sykes’ colleagues support the legislation because they believe it will help ensure that people know their STD status. “We have to look at that as a society whether we want people who have communicable diseases, they need to know if they have it, and I think this is a mechanism to provide them to do that,” Sen. Kyle Loveless (R), who acknowledged the legislation likely needs some tweaks, told NEWS 9.
Legal experts in the state are concerned that the legislation would go too far to infringe on Americans’ private medical information, which is supposed to be protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). If people are required to file these documents with the court clerk before getting married, the results of their STD test would become public information.
According to federal health officials, the United States does face an ongoing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections. The rates of STDs in this country are higher than in any other industrialized country in the world, something that incurs an estimated $16 billion in direct medical costs annually.
But it’s unclear how requiring STD tests before a marriage ceremony would address the issue. The vast majority of Americans have sex before marriage, a trend that’s remained constant for decades. Even most evangelical Christians aren’t waiting. Plus, the average marriage ages for Americans are rising — to about 27 for women and 29 for men — at the same time as new STD infections are disproportionately concentrated among young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Medical experts have other ideas about how to effectively address STD rates. Researchers and doctors recommend starting comprehensive sex ed classes at an earlier age and providing free condoms in high schools. Nonetheless, Senate Bill 733 has been referred to Oklahoma’s Judiciary Committee for further review.
Many states used to require blood tests to check both partners for venereal disease or measles before they wed, but the practice has largely been eliminated. Just a small handful of states still ask for blood work as part of the marriage license application.
Oklahoma lawmakers are currently trying to regulate marriage in other ways, too. This week, a legislative committee approved a bill that would punish local or state employees for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as well as prohibit taxpayer dollars from going toward any activities that support marriage equality.
The state has also recently sparked considerable controversy over a proposed measure that would ban Advanced Placement U.S. History classes and instead require students to focus on a list of “foundational documents” — including the Ten Commandments, two sermons, and three speeches delivered by Ronald Reagan.