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Missouri Lawmakers (Still) Want To Bring Covenant Marriage to the State

Published Wednesday, Dec. 13th, 2023

Two wedding rings are placed on an open Bible, symbolizing religious Christian marriage.
Photo: Luwadlin Bosman / Unsplash

Missouri Legislators will reconsider new covenant marriage license in 2024



Last week, lawmakers in the Missouri House prefiled legislation ahead of the regular 2024 session that would create provisions for covenant marriage.


(Prefiled: House Bill 1789)


Called the ‘Missouri Covenant Marriage Act,’ this bill would add two new sections to Missouri’s marriage laws: 


The first section would allow couples to apply for a special ‘covenant marriage license,’ or to designate their marriage as a covenant marriage while applying for a standard license. 


The second section outlines a unique ‘declaration of intent’ that couples would be required to sign in order to enter into a covenant marriage. This declaration states that marriage is a religious covenant that can only be entered into by one man and one woman, that the couple must remain married until death, that they’ve received premarital counseling prior to marrying, and that they will choose counseling instead of divorce if marital problems arise. 



The bill was prefiled for the 2024 session by Representative Mitch Boggs on December 5th, 2023. 


This isn’t the first time covenant marriage has been up for discussion in Missouri. Previous legislation was introduced by Rep Boggs in 2021, 2022, and 2023, but has consistently failed to pass. Similar Senate bills were sponsored by Senator Mike Moon in 2021 and 2022, but also failed to gain support.


So, what is covenant marriage, and why do some lawmakers continue to champion it despite its lack of popularity? 


Let’s take a look!



CLose up photo shows a bride and groom resting their hands, palm down, on an open Holy Bible during a religious CHristian wedding ceremony

Photo: Spora Weddings / Pexels

An estimated1-2% of couples choose covenant marriages in the three states where they're permitted.



What is covenant marriage? 


Covenant marriage is a legally distinct type of marriage contract that makes it very difficult for spouses to divorce, and that can only be entered into by opposite-gender couples. These marriages are founded in a Christian belief that marriage is a religious covenant between ‘one man and one woman,’ and should last until death. 


In depth: What is a Covenant Marriage? (And Why Would Couples Choose One?)



Why are some legislators in favor of covenant marriage? 


This type of marriage agreement appeals to legislators with conservative religious views. These legislators oppose divorce and same-sex marriage rights, and these bills are usually introduced as a legal alternative to civil marriage for couples who hold conservative Christian views.



Why are some people opposed to covenant marriage? 


On the other hand, covenant marriages are considered dangerous by advocates against domestic violence. Although couples in a covenant marriage might be able to obtain a divorce in extreme circumstances, the process is incredibly difficult. 


Domestic violence advocates point to studies conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research that show access to no-fault divorce has significantly reduced suicide rates (by up to 20% for women) and lowers domestic violence and domestic homicide rates (via ACLU).



Where are covenant marriages allowed? 


Currently, only three states have provisions for covenant marriages -- Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana -- and it’s estimated that only 1 - 2% of couples in these states choose covenant marriages. 



Learn more: 



Close up photo shows a groom placing a wedding ring on the bride's ring finger during a wedding ceremony ring exchange. The bride wears a white beaded wedding gown with thin straps, and has long blonde hair. The groom wears a dark blue suit jacket, white button up shirt, and has a white rose in his lapel.

It's estimated that only 1 - 2% of couples choose covenant marriages.



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Conviértete en un Oficiante de Bodas en Missouri

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A book lays open on a table. Two pages are folded in towards the spine, creating the shape of a heart. Inside each curve of the 'heart' is a wedding ring.

Photo: Alejandro Avila / Pexels



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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