More states adopting covenant marriages - 4/10/01
cmfce at his.com
Tue Apr 10 10:56:11 EDT 2001
subject: More states adopting covenant marriages - 4/10/01
from: smart marriages
More states adopting covenant marriages
By Karen S. Peterson USA TODAY
Arkansas, with one of the country's highest divorce rates, Wednesday becomes
the third state to offer covenant marriages -- specialized, voluntary
agreements that make divorces tougher to get.
And officials in the office of Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat,
say he is expected to sign a bill giving couples a break on marriage license
fees if they take a marriage education course. Florida has a similar law.
The developments are the latest in a growing trend. States are trying to
reduce the divorce rate to help protect children, who do best in intact
The movement sends a powerful message, says Diane Sollee, founder of the
Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. ''Momentum is
building. Grown-ups out there are saying marriage is something we should
take a stand on. We feel strongly enough to pass a law. We have to value
this institution before we lose it.''
Arkansas' covenant marriage law voluntarily pledges couples to marry for
life and to get marital counseling if they have difficulties. Divorces may
be granted only in special cases, including adultery, the committing of a
felony, or physical or sexual abuse.
Arkansas has the nation's second-highest divorce rate, next to Nevada, says
Chris Pyle, family policy director for Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican.
''The governor is a former Southern Baptist minister. He has made marriage
an important priority in his administration.''
Louisiana and Arizona have passed their own versions of covenant marriage
laws, while there is similar activity in Texas and Iowa, says John Crouch, a
divorce lawyer who runs Americans for Divorce Reform. The group tracks and
advocates change in divorce laws. ''I think we are looking at very slow, but
Last year, Glendening vetoed a smaller-scale marriage education bill, saying
it didn't specify who would administer premarital education courses that
would be offered in exchange for discounted marriage fees.
One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. John Leopold, a Republican, went back to
the drawing board, spelling out a list of professionals who can offer the
courses, which must last at least four hours. ''We have met the governor's
objections,'' he says.
Leopold is concerned that the divorce rate for new marriages remains close
to 50%. And he says Americans spend more time preparing for a driver's
license than a marriage license.
''Policymakers have to deal honestly with these issues. Studies show where
there is a nurturing environment with a husband and wife, children have a
much better chance for success,'' Leopold says.
Not everybody applauds the trend. Much marriage education legislation
''seems like window dressing to me,'' says Don Bloch, past president of the
American Family Therapy Academy. ''I don't know about a four-hour course. It
seems like political flimflam by people who appeal to our desire to do
something about marriage.''
* * * * * * *
I like Crouch's comment "very slow, but long-term, change."
And we have to like it that Gov Glendening's office announced yesterday
that he's going to sign the Maryland marriage bill. Oklahoma, Arizona and
Utah are moving ahead with implementation stages and pilot projects.
Minnesota and Illinois are the next states to watch on the legislative
fronts. Back at it in Florida, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin. And, how
about your state? And that doesn't even touch what's going on in
schools, on bases, and in community marriage policies. Come to the
conference and we'll compare strategies and also look at what's percolating
at the federal level with TANF reauthorization - and why some people like
Don Bloch are skeptical about the marriage movement. - diane
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