Courtesy of Diane Sollee of Smart Marriages and Mike Thompson, Texas chair of Americans for Divorce Reform, here's the latest on this bill. After the article is an even more current update from Diane, with good responses to some of the posturing about marriage education being an intrusion into people's private lives:
- MARRIAGE EDUCATION LEGISLATION IN TEXAS HOUSE
Marriage bill gets an iffy 'I do' in the House
April 12, 2007
Proposal that raises fees unless couples take class faces an uncertain
future in Senate
By POLLY ROSS HUGHES
AUSTIN — Lovebirds wishing to tie the knot would pay $100 for a marriage
license under a bill the Texas House tentatively passed Wednesday, unless
they took a prenuptial class on how to behave as a spouse.
Before the 78-63 vote, furor among Democrats and rebellious Republicans
the marriage fee hike prompted the bill's author to promise he'll merely
double the current $30 fee before a final vote today. Applicants taking the
classes would get free marriage licenses.
Even with final House approval, though, the bill faces an uncertain future
in the Senate, where it must find a sponsor to get a floor debate.
Debate in the House lasted more than two hours and touched on the wisdom of
no-fault divorces, poverty and broken marriages, government intrusion into
private lives and whether a new "marriage tax" hike violates the state
Republican Party platform.
Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, stressed that his House Bill 2685 urges
to undergo an eight-hour marriage education class because children of
never-married or divorced parents are more likely to be poor.
"It's encouragement for them to go there," Chisum said. "Our issue here
today is to keep marriages solid and have them last longer and stop this 50
percent divorce rate."
Chisum called the bill a first step toward ending the high divorce rate in
Texas and beginning to address the "no-fault divorce issue, which is
children without mothers and fathers. ... Even Ronald Reagan said the
no-fault divorce was the worst thing he did in government."
Levity on the House floor
Not all of his fellow Republicans were so enamored of marriage. In a moment
of levity, Rep. Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso, quipped, "The bill says those that
are married live longer. It's not really true. It just seems longer."
Haggerty had proposed an amendment in jest saying all members of the
Legislature must take an eight-hour marriage education course.
When another lawmaker suggested an exemption for House members married 25
years or more, twice-divorced Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said if he
added up both of his marriages, "I can get over that hump."
The issue is important at the core for Republicans embracing the ideas of
the Texas Conservative Coalition, which is supporting a package of seven
"healthy marriage" bills this year.
Its "Saving Money, Saving Families" report in February argued that
marriages and families will further alleviate reliance on state
Some of the coalition-backed bills would require couples seeking a divorce
to attend a 10-hour, intensive marriage crisis class within a 48-hour
period. If they choose not to take the class, under another Chisum bill,
they would have to wait two years for a divorce to be final.
The House added an amendment, 88-54, by San Antonio Democratic Rep. Mike
Villarreal that requires the state to pick up the tab if fees don't cover a
county's cost of issuing marriage licenses. Chisum had opposed the
amendment, saying it would burden the state with the possibility of
all 254 counties.
Criticized for hurting poor
Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, said it is hypocritical for Chisum, whose
role as Texas House Appropriations Committee chairman is to keep a tight
rein on taxing and spending, to propose doubling or tripling a $30 marriage
When Democrats suggested $100 was more than some young couples could afford
to pay for a marriage license, Chisum shot back, "I would suggest if you
don't have $100, folks shouldn't get married."
Chisum's bill is also tied to a funding bill the House also passed
Wednesday. It would help low-income couples pay for marriage preparation
classes by tapping into nearly $10 billion of a federal welfare grant.
For some lawmakers, the issue is about whether families or government
set personal moral standards.
"I guess it's the libertarian in me that says you don't take a price hike
coerce anyone into taking a course," said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.
"You're being asked to do something you may not believe in."
P.S. To the concern about intruding into private lives let us remind these
legislators that the sure ways to keep the government out of our private
lives is to stay married, stay out of family court, and stay off welfare.
It's when we divorce that family court and social workers make decisions
about custody, visitation, and child support ? if and when we see our
children, where they'll spend the holidays, what religion they'll practice,
which schools they'll attend. And, because children of divorce and family
breakdown are more likely to fail at school, be delinquent, substance
abusing, depressed - that opens our lives to ever more "intrusion" from
helping professionals - courts, social workers, school counselors, and
welfare agents. - diane
P.S.S. - Last night 4/12/07 the House emasculated the premarital bill and
took out the $30 incentive. We'll see what the Senate does. Maybe they'll
put it back in. - diane