Washington, D.C., Council Member Recommends Eliminating HIV, Syphilis Test Requirements for Marriage Licenses
Washington, D.C., council member Phil Mendelson (D), head of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, recently recommended eliminating a provision from a marriage bill that would require couples applying for marriage licenses to be tested for HIV/AIDS and syphilis, the Washington Post reports. The Safe Marriage Amendment Act -- proposed in December 2007 by council members Yvette Alexander (D), Marion Barry (D) and Harry Thomas (D) -- would add a test for HIV/AIDS to the already required syphilis test, the Post reports.
The bill also encourages couples to receive premarital counseling. Those who receive the counseling would pay $35 for a marriage license rather than $65. According to the Post, "nearly every state" in the U.S. has rescinded similar laws. However, there are some states that encourage premarital education and two states that screen for bloodborne diseases: Mississippi for syphilis and Montana for rubella.
Mendelson -- who along with council member Tommy Wells (D) originally co-sponsored the bill -- is now proposing to eliminate the HIV/AIDS and syphilis requirements in the measure because of issues related to "privacy and liberty," the Post reports. Mendelson also introduced an amendment to the current law to repeal a section that prohibits the "marriage of an idiot or of a person adjudged to be a lunatic." On Tuesday, the Committee of the Whole accepted a report by the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary with Mendelson's recommendations.
Alexander said she stands behind the original bill, adding, "Accepting the report is not necessarily accepting [Mendelson's] amendments." An HIV/AIDS test could save lives, Alexander said. She added, "You may still marry that person. I think it is for both of you to take. ... Especially with the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic in the district, we would set a precedent" (Stewart/Davis, Washington Post, 5/29).