There are many functions governments do well.
Providing for the safety of its citizens and building and maintaining roads are among them.
Offering marital advice is not.
That's why we don't think the covenant marriage bill that will be introduced in Minnesota's next legislative session is the right approach to stem the growing tide of divorce in the U.S.
The covenant marriages, which would be optional, are seen by supporters as a way to discourage impulsive divorces. Couples in a covenant marriage agree to 12 hours of premarital counseling and a two-year waiting period between the time they decide to divorce and the time they did so with certain exceptions. For their part, the couples will get a $50 break on their marriage license.
Married couples would still be able to quickly end the covenant marriage in cases where a partner committed adultery, abuse, abandonment for at least a year or was convicted of a felony.
The covenant marriage idea is unappealing for a number of reasons.
It creates a cumbersome "two-tier" system of marriages, when logic would seem to dictate that a couple is either married or not. It doesn't make sense that couples using the new covenant system would somehow be "more married" than those that don't.
There is little evidence there is a great demand for this option. In Louisiana, where the idea apparently originated, only 3 percent of the couples take advantage of the covenant marriage alternative. Covenant marriage bills were introduced in 17 states last year, including Minnesota, but only Arizona adopted one.
State government has plenty of work to keep it busy. It doesn't need to get involved in premarital counseling. Counseling is a great idea but it's a job that could probably be better done by a religious organization.
When a couple decides to divorce it is, most often, a painful, private decision. A covenant marriage system which makes the couple explain to state bureaucrats why they made that decision before they even get into a courtroom seems a bit obtrusive.
The U.S. divorce rate of 50 percent is deplorable and stronger families generally translate into fewer people on government welfare. Still, the task of building stronger marriages is best left to religious groups.
Law and marriage
Preservation of marriage should not be how legislators spend their time
Minnesota lawmakers are not elected to be marriage counselors. They should reject a proposed covenant marriage bill that would attempt to slow down the divorce process.
Here's how a covenant marriage option would work as proposed by several Minnesota legislators ... Couples would agree to 12 hours of premarital counseling and a two-year waiting period between the time they decided to divorce and the time they did so in most cases.
Any married couple who has gone through any pre-marriage counseling or retreat would be happy to report that they entered into marriage thinking they were well-prepared and made for each other. The variables that affect a marriage aren't going to be controlled by 12 hours of counseling sessions and an extra $50 in their joint savings account. And once a couple has decided divorce is unavoidable, having a ''covenant marriage'' probably isn't enough to stop them.
At least one University of Minnesota professor of family social science said he agreed with the covenant marriage bill proposal because some people impulsively divorce. That may be true, but some people impulsively have children, gamble and buy boats. Does that mean the Legislature will be stepping in to control the behavior of those people next?
Legislating the preservation of marriage isn't how lawmakers should be focusing their time and energy.
-- The Free Press of Mankato
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