There’s a lot to plan for once you decide to get married. You need to decide what sort of wedding you will have, you need to set a date, potentially book a place to host it, find someone to officiate, be sure to actually get a marriage license and, oh, yes, get tested for STIs. At least, that could be the case in Oklahoma if one lawmaker has his way.
In an ideal world, people who are engaging in sexual intercourse are using barrier method contraception in order to reduce the chances of contracting or sharing a sexually transmitted infection. Being in a responsible sexual relationship means being aware of any issues you may have, getting treatment if necessary, and engaging in open and honest communication with your partner regarding his or her status.
Then there is Oklahoma, where the state doesn’t feel that couples will take on this responsible relationship conversation, and is considering making it a mandatory part of getting a wedding license. According to Martha Kemper, Oklahoma state Sen. Anthony Sykes is proposing a bill that may in fact deny marriage licenses to those who don’t pass an STI screening.
“One lawmaker in Oklahoma, however, wants to grow that list with a new rule requiring that couples prove they do not have syphilis or other communicable diseases before the state will issue them a marriage license,” writes Kemper. “Specifically, couples will have to have a blood test and present a signed note from a physician saying either that they have tested negative or that the disease is not in a stage in which it can be transmitted to their marriage partner. It is not clear what happens to those couples who do not meet these criteria, but if the proposed legislation passes as it is currently worded, it appears that the state could refuse to issue a marriage license after a failed syphilis test.”
As Kemper notes, although pre-wedding blood tests used to be a thing in a number of states back in the 20th century, it died off as both certain STIs became less prevalent and genetic issues in potential children could be better detected by prenatal screenings. This blast from the past seems more confusing than anything else, and doesn’t really appear to have a recognizable health policy concern to back it up.
Then again, maybe that’s not the reason for the bill. Couples who have already discussed their sexual history aren’t likely to be affected by such a policy if it ever were put into place, since there would be nothing in the test results that would be shocking. The only soon to be married couples who would be affected are those who either are not aware that they have an STI – and could potentially give it to their partners – or those who do know they do but haven’t treated it, and likely haven’t shared that information with their future spouse.
In other words, is this a public safety precaution, or a veiled virginity test?
Oklahoma, a state that blatantly refuses to introduce any form of comprehensive non-abstinence only sex ed, has seen those failed education policies play out in the health of their students.
“[I]n 2010 young people aged 15-24 had the highest rates of chlamydia in the state, 1,936 cases per 100,000 for ages 15 to 19 years and 2,031 cases per 100,000 for those aged 20 to 24, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health,” reports OU Daily. “Those aged 15 to 24 also reported the highest rate of gonorrhea cases and 20 to 24 year-olds led the state in syphilis cases. Oklahoma also had one of the highest teen birth rates in the country, ranking fourth out of 51 (including all 50 states and D.C.) on the 2011 final teen birth rates among females aged 15-19. One represented the highest teen birth rate and 51 represented the lowest on the scale.”
If such a bill really did pass the state, that could literally cut off a large population of Oklahomans from being allowed to wed. Of course, in legislative fantasy land, the assumption is that by taking away the reward of eventual marriage, students would somehow just not engage in sex until they were already married. But, like all abstinence only plans, that is often an invitation to failure.
The premise behind an STI test before getting a marriage license is clear–have sex and risk your future. Even better, it could weed out those who may have chosen not to share their full sexual past with their partners. Either way, it is a horrible government intrusion and one that Oklahomans are unlikely to willingly embrace.
No wonder, as Kemper reports, the bill has no co-sponsors.