The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.


Published October 4, 2017

Bill would eliminate marriage in MO

JEFFERSON CITY – A proposed bill would eliminate marriage in the state of Missouri if approved by lawmakers.

Representative T.J. Berry, a Republican, who represents part of Clay County, submitted the bill in Jefferson City earlier this year that would change every term of “marriage” in state law to “contract of domestic union.”

The massive bill (386 pages long) has no sponsors and the last action taken was on May 12 of this year when it was “Referred: Select Committee on Local, State, Federal Relations and Miscellaneous Business.”

The bill, if passed, would remove the state completely from the “marriage” of two people (any two people). “Marriage” would no longer be legally recognized unless the couple had a “contract of domestic union” in addition to being married.

If, as the bill proposes, the word “marriage” is eliminated from state law then how can the any state statute apply to marriage?

Some Christians (and others) feel that marriage was created by God in the Garden of Eden (as The Bible says) and is a holy institution and the state should not be performing a holy union.

This proposal, however, brings a host of problems from the federal government. The Internal Revenue Service explains some of these problems in relation to taxes.

For instance, can two people in a domestic or civil union file taxes using the “married filed jointly” classification?

“No. Registered domestic partners may not file a federal return using a married filing separately or jointly filing status. Registered domestic partners are not married under state law. Therefore, these taxpayers are not married for federal tax purposes.”

According to, other legal problems can arise if two people (or three or however many) enter a “contract of domestic union” or civil union.

• Civil unions are not recognized by the federal government and a civil union couple is currently treated as virtual strangers when it comes to federal benefits, including various federal tax consequences.
• A civil union is not the same as a marriage. Since the federal government does not recognize civil unions, it does not recognize “alimony” for a civil union partner. Thus, an award of “alimony” would not be tax-deductible by the payor, and not taxable to the supported partner. Further, distribution of assets could not transfer tax-free to the other partner.

According to his bio, Berry is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Kearney. He is a member of the Kearney Chamber of Commerce, Smithville Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club. He is married to his wife Shelly and they have a son and a daughter.

He was first elected in 2010.

Many bills are submitted to Jefferson City each year and they go nowhere and die a silent death. This bill has no co-sponsors and has been in committee since May.

If it ever does become law, then the state, including local governments, will be forbidden from performing a marriage but can do a “contract of domestic union.”  Any law that currently applies to marriage will then apply only to a “contract of domestic union” and not to someone who gets married in a religious ceremony.

It is also unknown if current married people will have to obtain a “contract of domestic union” in order to be covered by state law.

Among the other bills proposed by Berry is one eliminating the death penalty in the state. Anyone who is on “death row” would have their sentence changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It is also unknown what will happen to that bill.

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