Texas House Raises Marriage Fee For 'Healthier Marriages'
AP - May 16, 2007
[sent by Diane Sollee of Smart Marriages and Mike Thompson of Americans for Divorce Reform.]
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas marriage license fee will would increase from
$30 to $60 but would be waived for couples who take a premarital education
course under a proposal the Legislature passed Tuesday, sending it next to
Gov. Rick Perry.
The measure by Rep. Warren Chisum, a Pampa Republican, also would waive the
state's 72-hour marriage waiting period for couples who participate in the
The House agreed Tuesday to changes the Senate made to the bill. The major
change was upping the license fee to $60, a move that had previously been
batted down in the House. Critics had complained that amounted to a
tax on couples who choose not to enroll in the premarital course.
Chisum said an increasing divorce rate is "wrecking this country."
"Our intent is to have healthy marriages," Chisum said. "It's now going to
cost $60 to get married if you don't take this course."
The bill calls for an eight-hour course to cover such topics as conflict
management and communication skills.
ALso, Doug Welty sent in this story from the Houston Chronicle --
Bill to double marriage fee heading to Gov. Perry
Copyright 2007 Austin Bureau
AUSTIN — Despite its earlier protests of government intrusion into private lives, the Texas House approved a bill today doubling marriage license fees to $60 unless couples take state-sanctioned classes on how to be good spouses.
The marriage fee hike, which unanimously passed the Senate last week, is now on its way to Gov. Rick Perry.
Couples that agree to take specific classes outlined in the bill will get free marriage licenses, but it is not yet clear how much the classes will cost.
The House, which earlier voted against raising the marriage license fee, reversed that stance with a 84-56 vote.
"Divorce is wrecking this country," said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, author of the "healthy marriage" bill, HB 2685.
"We have far too many divorces, in most cases in the first three to four years of marriage," he added. "If we don't focus on keeping families together, then we're on a downward spiral."
Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, tried to rally House members to stand by their earlier vote, based on arguments that doubling the marriage license fee amounts to a marriage tax.
"This House has already voted on the issue of (not) doubling the cost of a marriage license," he said.
Gallego said the issue is even larger than a fee hike, harking back to Ronald Reagan's warning against government as the answer to all problems.
"He said government is not the answer," Gallego said. "Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.
"How have we gone from government is not the solution to now asking government to get involved in everyday marriage?"
Under the bill, those wishing to tie the knot can avoid the marriage fee hike by taking an eight-hour class on how to succeed as a spouse.
The bill specifies that couples must take the classes within a year of applying for a marriage license. If they take the class, the bill also waives a 72-hour waiting period for getting married after a license is granted.
The classes must teach couples conflict management, communication skills and keys to a successful marriage. It does not require that couples be instructed on how to be good parents or how to manage finances.
Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, had mistakenly predicted that the House would reject the Senate's version restoring the carrot-and-stick approach to encouraging better marriages for Texans.
"I just think the government has no business interfering in the sanctity of a marriage," he said.
Chisum has said no special degrees or licenses are required to teach the class. Anyone wishing to instruct couples can take a class lasting only a day or two.
Merritt predicted that marriage classes will pop up around Texas just as defensive driving classes did, based on a bill the Legislature passed.
"There are individuals that make money off of defensive driving. This is just another way for some opportunist to come here under the perception that this is a good idea, he said. "A lot of people will make money off of it. It's terrible.