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Published: Wednesday, Apr. 21st, 2021

Missouri legislators debate whether marriages must be solemnized, may replace marriage licenses with ‘contracts of domestic union’

A recently proposed bill in the Missouri House would make numerous changes to the language and structure of the state’s marriage laws, repealing over 300 sections and enacting 318 new sections in their place, including portions of the code relating to marriage licenses and solemnization. 

 

 

If passed, Missouri House Bill No. 1282 would 

 

  1. eliminate the need for a marriage ceremony, solemnized by a minister or judge
  2. eliminate the need for couples to request permission to marry from the state in the form of a marriage license, and 
  3. replace ‘marriage licenses’ with ‘contracts of domestic union’ 

 


As we understand it, this bill doesn’t suggest changes to the previous requirements or restrictions for entering into a legal union, and doesn’t discourage couples from choosing to call their unions ‘marriages,’ or from choosing to hold a traditional marriage ceremony with a minister or officiant of their choice. 

 

Couples would be free to celebrate their union any way they choose, including a ceremony with a wedding officiant or minister. But having the celebration solemnized by a recognized officiant would no longer be a legal requirement. 

 

Under the proposed guidelines, couples would visit the County Recorder of Deeds Office in person to complete and sign the contract of domestic union form provided by the county recorder. Two adult witness signatures would be required, and the couple would have 30 days to return the form. Once returned and accepted by the recorder of deeds, the couple’s marriage would be legally valid, and the recorder would issue them a certificate of marriage. 

 

The measure also includes the provision that “if any recorder willfully neglects or refuses to record a contract of domestic union of any person legally entitled to have such recorded… he or she shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined in any sum not less than five nor more than one hundred dollars.” 

 

This bill was introduced in February, and is still pending review by the Missouri House Rules - Administrative Oversight Committee. 

 

 

You can read the full bill here

 

The proposed changes mentioned above appear in the following sections: 

 

 

451.125

 

1. This section shall be known and may be cited as the "Get the Government Out of Marriage Act".

 

2. Two persons seeking to be married in this state and who are otherwise legally authorized to do so shall enter into a contract of domestic union. A contract of domestic union shall be the legal equivalent of marriage under the laws of this state. The use of the word "marriage", or any derivation of such word, in the laws of this state shall also include "contract of domestic union".

 

3. Beginning August 28, 2021, all current and previous marriages shall be known and referred to by the state and its political subdivisions as contracts of domestic union. Two consenting persons who are parties to a valid marriage entered into before August 28, 2021, under this chapter may apply to the recorder of deeds in the county in which their marriage is recorded to have their marriage legally designated and recorded as a domestic union, without any additional requirements of payment or fees, provided that such parties' marriage was not previously dissolved or annulled. The parties' valid marriage license shall satisfy the requirements of subsection 3 of this section.

 

4. A contract of domestic union shall be in writing and shall contain the following:

 

(1) The names of the parties;
(2) A statement that the parties are legally authorized to enter into a contract of domestic union;
(3) The signatures of the parties;
(4) The signatures of two adult witnesses; and
(5) If one of the parties to the contract of domestic union is under eighteen years of age, a written affidavit of the custodial parent or guardian consenting to the contract of domestic union. The affidavit shall be signed by the custodial parent or guardian and sworn to before an officer authorized to administer oaths.

 

5. A contract of domestic union conforming to the requirements of this section shall be valid on the date the contract is executed by both parties, provided the contract is presented to and recorded by the recorder of deeds or their deputy within thirty days of the execution of the contract.

 

6. A civil and independent or religious ceremony of marriage, celebration of marriage, solemnization of marriage, or any other officiation, and administration of the vows of marriage may be conducted or engaged in by the parties to this contract of domestic union by an officiant or other presiding party to be selected by the parties to the contract. The state shall have no requirement for such ceremonial proceeding that, whether performed, shall have no legal effect upon the validity of the contract of domestic union.

 

7. The contract of domestic union shall be recorded by the recorder of deeds and shall constitute a legal record of a domestic union of the two parties.

 

8. The recorder of deeds shall accept for recording any certificate of marriage for out-of-state marriages. Such recording shall be presumptive evidence of the validity of the out-of-state marriage. Out-of-state marriages and out-of-state domestic unions shall be recognized as contracts of domestic unions in this state.

 

9. Common-law marriages shall be null and void.

 

10. No recorder shall record a contract of domestic union of any person under sixteen years of age or of any person twenty-one years of age or older in a contract of domestic union with a person under eighteen years of age.

 

11. Nothing in this section shall be deemed or taken to render invalid any marriage otherwise lawful before August 28, 2021.

 

12. The parties seeking to enter into a contract of domestic union must appear in person to the county recorder of deeds office to complete and sign the contract of domestic union form provided by the county recorder.

 

13. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a person who is a Missouri resident and serving active duty in the military or incarcerated within the state of Missouri from entering into a contract of domestic union.

 

14. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as discouraging individual parties to a contract of domestic union from utilizing the term marriage as it relates to a contract of domestic union.

 


451.127 

 

1. Once a contract of domestic union has been presented and recorded with the recorder of deeds required under subsection 5 of section 451.125, the recorder of deeds shall issue a certificate. The certificate shall contain the following information:

 

(1) The names of the parties to the contract of domestic union;
(2) The names of the two adult witnesses to the contract of domestic union; and
(3) The county in and date upon which the contract of domestic union was executed.

 

2. If one of the parties to the contract of domestic union is under eighteen years of age, the certificate issued by the recorder shall contain the information required under subsection 1 of this section and shall include the name of the custodial parent or guardian who has given consent for such party to enter into a contract of domestic union.


 


 

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