After years of conservative Christians claiming we need to stick to “traditional marriage,” a Missouri state representative (and ordained deacon) has introduced a bill that would literally redefine marriage and put it entirely in the hands of churches.
State Rep. T.J. Berry put forth House Bill 1434 to put religions entirely in control of defining “marriage” and conducting those ceremonies. If you decide to get married without being a church member, you would be considered part of a “domestic union.”
I had a lot of questions about the bill… so I asked him about it.
Berry, a Southern Baptist lawmaker and a deacon at First Baptist Church in Kearney, told me he was “tired” of the argument about the definition of the word marriage. He wanted the issue “put to rest from a government standpoint.” He said in an email to me:
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.
Berry, perhaps to seem more open-minded, also told me he recently attended “a ceremony where a person dressed up as Bat man came out and did the wedding ceremony.” The bride was dressed in white and the groom was in a suit, he added.
I personally don’t care how someone defines or celebrates their commitment to one another. I do believe that if an individual church chooses not to approve of someone else’s definition of the word marriage Government can not [sic] step in and force a church to except [sic] same sex marriage.
Berry said it was wrong to say his bill would require “marriages” be performed by churches, insisting people “would be free to hold any ceremony they like.” Likewise, he noted, clergy “would not be required to notify government upon performing any ceremony.”
When push came to shove, however, Berry admitted that, in order to be considered a “marriage” — using that word specifically — it would have to be defined by churches (and not government) under his plan.
Yes if you want a religious ceremony defined by a church that would be correct. Churches would be free to define that as their convictions prescribe.
What about marriage licenses already issued in the state? If this bill passes, they would be replaced with “contracts of domestic union” to solve the (largely invented) problem of churches being “forced” to perform services for same-sex couples. Which they’re not forced to do at all. This “solution,” however, would actually make life more difficult for members of the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, said Berry’s proposal would cause problems for same-sex couples in the state because the federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships in extending benefits regarding taxation, Social Security and military spousal benefits.
If only churches can sanction marriages, and people who don’t want to go that route don’t have access to the term (for lack for better words), they could miss out on a lot of benefits the government gives to married couples. That’s precisely that problem the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality was supposed to prevent.
While it’s not likely that Berry’s bill passes, it’s important to pay attention because this type of rhetoric is becoming more and more common in our modern America, and it’s a threat to both same-sex and non-religious couples across the country.
(Image via Facebook)