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Civil 'covenant' marriage could be a step backward

Staff reporter

When is a promise not a promise? Or if someone promises the same thing three times does it make it more of a promise than one time does?

There are many kinds of promises in life, some we take with a grain of salt, while others we take very seriously. Probably one of the most serious promises we make to ourselves and others is the marriage vow. For the most part we take them seriously whether they are uttered under a religious umbrella or in a civil ceremony. However there are some in our state legislature that think everyone needs to become even more serious about getting married. This past session a bill was introduced in the house to bring covenant marriages to Utah. The idea of this type of marriage is not new, with it first civil law beginnings in Europe in the 1940's, and three states, Arkansas, Arizona and Louisiana all offer couples the chance to participate in covenant marriage today.

Basically the provisions of covenant marriage make entering or exiting a marriage under the law more difficult and is a firm step toward ending no-fault divorces in states where these regulations were enacted. In a sense the law provides for a "two tier" marriage regime and while it is presently optional in the states where it is available, some lawmakers are considering using it to return to the days when fault was an important part of divorce.

Utah's proposed law was based on the Louisiana statute and was introduced by Senator Thomas Hatch (R-Panguitch). It would have provided for counseling session before marriage took place and a long waiting period (two years) before a divorce could be granted. During that time the couple would have to jump through a number of hoops to make it final, including extensive counseling to try and keep them together. The house approved the bill, but the senate defeated it.

These types of laws, say many who want to see them passed, will bring back the days when people respected marriage and stayed in them when the times got tough. They see it as a way of strengthening our society.

As long as it is optional, it sounds fine to me. But the fact is that if such a bill passes, how long will it be until such provisions become the norm. Having an option is a good thing, but let's go back to the ideas at the beginning of this editorial. When is a promise not a promise? How many people go into marriage expecting it not to work? The concern is that many would sign up to invoke covenant marriage just to show their future partner they have no doubts or to please their parents or their church.

The days before "no fault" divorces were no piece of cake for a couple caught in the cogs of a broken marriage machine. True, it seems by statistics, more people stayed together, but the misery this type of system caused in lives is the very reason not to return to even the slimmest vestiges of it.

Often it is easy to reminisce about the "good old days" but as it is in the case of most things, they weren't, in actuality, as good as they seem looking at them through the opaque windows of time. That's especially true for those that were trapped by the law in those days.

While it would be nice to see divorce rates in this country go down, forcing people into more of a box is not the answer and would be a step backward in human rights.

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