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A legislator’s solution to the marriage debate: Remove the stands

  • FILE – In this April 19, 2016, file photo, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to protect businesses who refuse services for same-sex weddings, to lobby Missouri legislators in Jefferson City, Mo. A Republican Missouri lawmaker says he has a solution to put an end to tense debates over same-sex marriage. Rep. T. J. Berry wants the government out of marriage and leave it to the houses of worship because of the layout of such legal partnerships, domestic unions. (AP Photo/Summer Ballentine, File)

    (Associated Press)

  • FILE – In this March 31, 2016, file photo, gay rights supporter Mathew “Skippy” Mauldin has a flag during a gay rights rally outside the Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo. A Republican Missouri lawmaker says he has a solution to put an end to tense debates over same-sex marriage. Rep. T. J. Berry wants the government out of marriage and leave it to the houses of worship because of the layout of such legal partnerships, domestic unions. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

    (Associated Press)

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Missouri Republican saw last year the debate over a proposed constitutional amendment that would have protected businesses that refuse services to same-sex couples to bring lawmakers to the tears and grind legislation to a halt. Potential solution: Take government out of marriage completely.

“You can stop spending so much emotional energy of the problem, and we can move on to other things,” state Rep. T. J. Berry said, adding, “I am treating everybody exactly the same way and leave the space for people to believe what they believe outside of the government.”

His bill, submitted before the 2017 legislative session, would make Missouri the first state to recognize only domestic unions for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, the treatment of legal partnerships for a moment, and leaving marriages to be done by pastors and other church leaders.

But this peace can be elusive for various reasons. Some claim that the exit from the marriage of religious leaders is a way to the essence, to refuse to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. Plus, there are potential logistical problems with the stripping of the references to marriage in the hundreds of the laws of the states and the federal government recognizes only the marriages of benefits. Berry’s idea is met by the skepticism of almost all sides of the gay marriage issue.

Other states, including Alabama, Indiana and Michigan failed to pass similar bills to limit the role of government in marriage, and Oklahoma representatives passed a bill that not from the Senate.

The Missouri bill’s chances are unclear, although the Republican House Majority Floor Leader Mike Cierpiot, who lives 30 minutes south of Kansas City in Lee’s Summit, said the issue should be discussed by passionate arguments among the rights of LGBT groups and religious organizations that remain in the wake of the 2015 U. S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The bill is supported by the states, the rights of the group Tenth Amendment Center spokesman Mike Maharrey called it a “great compromise” and referred to county clerks in other states, such as Kentucky, who refuses marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“It removes that the type of the struggle of conscience,” he said.

While the bill “would be the treatment of all pairs of the same” — at least in Missouri — the legal director for the national LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign has shown that a significant problem. The federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships or other alternative trade unions, so Missouri’s of the same gender and the opposite gender would need to marry in another member state to receive federal benefits in respect of tax, social security and military spousal benefits, Sarah Warbelow said.

Berry, who is from Kearney, about 30 minutes north of Kansas City, ” he said looking to the directives of the federal government.

The bill also doesn’t address the heart of the tension between religious groups and gay rights groups: whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

The members of the Missouri Baptist Convention, are concerned that the endorsement of Berry, the measure would be seen as accepting the Supreme Court ruling, policy director Don Hinkle said.

“We believe that the Bible is literally the word of God, and keep his commandments,” Hinkle said. “And he makes it very clear that marriage is only between a man and a woman.”

Democratic House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said that the matter was settled at the federal level, calling the bill “absolutely not.” They also warned that the staggering 386-page bill, has unknown consequences, potentially causing problems for couples in domestic unions that are located outside of the state.

And there is the possibility that the measure chip on the meaning of marriage.

“If you instead of a marriage with domestic union, people will still contract to take seriously?” Missouri Catholic Conference Executive Director Mike Hoey said.

Most Americans “don’t want marriage to disappear,” Warbelow said.

“There is something about the marriage,” she said. “People don’t grow up dreaming about the fact that in civil unions or domestic partnerships.”

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Follow Summer Ballentine on Twitter: @esballentine

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