An Oklahoma senator has proposed that prospective couples should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Oklahoma Senate Bill 733, authored by Anthony Sykes (R-Cleveland), would mandate that couples take blood tests for STDs before applying for a marriage license.
The bill reads, “The State Board of Health shall require a blood test for the discovery of syphilis and other communicable or infectious diseases prior to the issuance of a marriage license.”
The legislation further states that a couple must file a doctor’s letter with the Court Clerk which certifies “that the persons named therein are not infected with syphilis or other communicable or infectious diseases or, if infected, that such diseases are not in a stage which may be communicable to the marriage partner.”
Proponents of the bill say it forces couples to be honest about their STD status. “People who have communicable diseases … need to know if they have it (sic), and I think this is a mechanism to provide them to do that,” Senator Kyle Loveless (R-Canadian) said to Oklahoma City News 9. In Oklahoma, the median age of men getting married for the first time is 26, according to a 2009 Pew Research analysis. The median age of women is 24.
Some argue the bill wouldn’t be effective at keeping STDs from spreading, as a lot of people are sexually active before marriage.
People between 15 and 24 years old acquire half of all new STDs, say the Centers for Disease Control. Additionally, a 2013 report by the CDC found that about 50 percent of Oklahoma high school teens have had sex at some point in time and about 42 percent did not use a condom during their most recent sexual encounter.
Privacy activists are concerned that the bill is overreaching and in violation of federal law that protects patients’ health information, including STD test results. If those results are filed with the court, they would become publicly available information. Therefore filing STD information with the court in accordance with SB 733 would violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Attorney David Slane agreed, telling Oklahoma City News 9 ,“It seems to me (filing STD test results) would violate people’s real privacy rights.”
SB 733 implies that couples where one or both partners test positive for an STD could be denied a marriage license. Sen. Loveless acknowledges that the bill automatically denies such a couple a chance at a wedding.
Loveless also acknowledged that the bill needs work to ensure patients’ privacy. “There are going to be serious questions (about how) we go about it to make sure people’s privacy is still observed,” he said.
SB 733 is still in its first draft. It is currently being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which can suggest amendments to the bill.