Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Covenant marriage bill introduced by Arlington legislator

An op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram begins with this commentary about a proposed bill, introduced by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, to allow couples to opt into a covenant marriage.

From the party of less goverment comes the latest initiative emblematic of a nanny state: covenant marriage.

The Texas Republican Party adopted as part of its platform the establishment of a covenant marriage option in the Lone Star State.

Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler stepped forward as the point man on the issue when he filed a bill this week that would allow couples to opt into such a marriage by attending state-paid premarital counseling. Should the union turn sour — as defined by adultery, physical or sexual abuse, felony conviction, or living separately for at least three years — couples would have to attend counseling and go through a two-year separation before a judge could hear the divorce case.

Zedler and the proponents of covenant marriage have worthy goals: strengthening families and stemming the divorce rate in Texas, which is 4.1 per 1,000 population. Premarital and pre-divorce counseling in a nation in which 40 percent of all unions end in a split is a capital idea.

But is it an idea that every Texas taxpayer should be underwriting?

Well, no. And that was the conclusion the legislature came to the last time this concept was introduced. The FWST editorial gives several good reasons why the legislature should not be wasting their time again on such a bill, including the extremely low rate of participation in states where covenant marriages are already law. The Texas Freedom Network highlights some others, including the fact that covenant marriage is dangerous to victims of domestic violence.

Ironically, the representative who prevented its introduction to the floor was another Arlington legislator, out-going vice chair of the House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues, Rep. Toby Goodman, who was defeated in November by Democrat Paul Hightower Pierson. Said Goodman, a divorce attorney, of his reasons for quashing the bill:

"I think they were misguided. I think they were filed for political reasons,"Goodman said.

"You cannot legislate marital bliss."

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