It’s autumn wedding season in the Texas Hill Country. The mild weather and beautiful locales throughout the Hill Country make this a desirable place for destination weddings. The Hill Country is centrally located, so getting here isn’t too burdensome for most people to get here. The abundance of wineries, ranches, and luxury bed and breakfasts make for a wonderful get-away experience.
Probably two-thirds I officiate every year are for couples who don’t live in the area. That means I see a lot of different marriage licenses. Texas does not have a standard marriage license used by all counties. Instead, each county has its own design. All of the marriage licenses I’ve seen have a surprisingly minimal amount of information. Witnesses aren’t even necessary. Besides the county clerk, I’m the only person signing the license.
I was signing the marriage license of a couple whose wedding I officiated this past weekend when I noticed something out of the ordinary that caused me to do a double take. Added in, just above where the county clerk signs, was a statement affirming that the person signing had given proper paperwork regarding HIV/AIDS to the couple applying for the marriage license. This statement was right on the marriage license itself! The same marriage license that people frame.
Sometimes I just don’t get how things are done in Texas. Texas has one of the highest rates of AIDS diagnoses when someone comes in to be tested for HIV. Because they already have AIDS when they’re tested, they have been living with HIV without knowing it for quite some time. Not only have they been living with HIV, they have also been sharing their HIV with everyone with whom they’ve been sexually active. And who knows how many people that is!
Early detection and treatment of HIV most often prevents HIV from becoming AIDS. Unfortunately, now that this person has AIDS, their health has suddenly become much more complicated than if they were tested and treated early on.
I wonder when and where Texans learn about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and HIV/AIDS? The subject is forbidden to be brought up in public schools. I can almost guarantee churches aren’t talking about it and most couple do not receive any premarital counseling prior to getting married. Since blood tests are no longer required for couple getting married, the subject isn’t mentioned on the marriage licenses application. The marriage license – a document most couples don’t even look at until they receive it in the mail after it’s been recorded in the county office – is not the best or appropriate place to bring up this delicate and difficult topic!
Couple place an incredible amount of unspoken trust in each other. They live together and buy homes together before marriage, but don’t seriously broach topics like sex, money, and alcohol. These aren’t easy topics for anyone to discuss, but marriage is full of difficult areas. Marriage is to be the safe haven where each is accepted unconditionally for who they are and where you commit to be there for each other in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer.
Marriage will also have enough surprises of its own. I pray that one of those surprises for a couple is NOT learning their new child has HIV when she is born. Talk about it. Get tested. HIV is treatable and couples still can have children even if both parents have HIV…BUT you must be treating the HIV.
And Texas, stop burying your head in the sand about sexuality and sexual practices. It’s happening! And it’s happening before a couple receives their marriage license in the mail. Covering your liability by placing a statement on a marriage license is not the way to deal with the reality of HIV/AIDS.