Oklahoma lawmakers push to prevent people with STDs from getting married

Proposed bill would grant marriage licenses based on STI test results -- but not if they're positive!

By Jenny Kutner
Published February 20, 2015 3:52PM (EST)
            (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-452158p1.html'>Mincemeat</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Mincemeat via Shutterstock)

Oklahoma lawmakers sure have been having a blast this legislative session! First, Republican state legislators vote overwhelmingly to ban AP U.S. History courses in schools -- and now they're taking on sex education! (Sort of.)

This week, a GOP legislator introduced a bill that would require couples to prove that neither partner has any sexually transmitted infections, such as "syphilis or other communicable or infectious diseases," before they can get hitched. The bill, introduced by State Sen. Anthony Sykes, stipulates that couples file an official certificate or affidavit from a licensed physician with the county clerk within 30 days of seeking a marriage license, indicating that they have tested negative for any communicable STIs. In its current form, the bill would prevent partners who test positive for a potentially transmittable infection from getting married.

The proposed law has been presented as an effort to encourage Oklahomans to get tested and learn their STI status, which is interesting given how the red state fares when it comes to comprehensive sex education. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Oklahoma is one of 29 states that does not mandate sex ed in public schools, and has no stipulations regarding the medical accuracy, bias, cultural sensitivity or religious leanings of the courses when they are taught. Oh, and parents can opt out of enrolling their kids in sex ed. Of course, when sexual health is taught comprehensively and accurately, it teaches students -- and not just engaged heterosexual couples -- the importance of STI prevention and testing.

As Think Progress notes, it's difficult to see how the proposed bill will do much to reduce the number of STIs in the state, given that it targets such a specific group of people; additionally, the vast majority of Americans (Oklahomans included) have sex before marriage anyway. The bill could (and likely would) also result in couples continuing to engage in non-marital intercourse, potentially with more than one partner.

There are privacy concerns as well, regarding the bill's requirement that couples disclose private medical information to the county clerk's office. STI test results would become part of the public record, likely violating patients' right to privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Despite all that, though, the bill has already been referred to Oklahoma's Judiciary Committee for review. Again: this is the same state that is trying to prevent teaching "what's bad about America."

Jenny Kutner

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