By Mike Stetzer
Indiana joins Texas in considering a law which would make it harder for some couples to get a divorce. The proposed statute would give couples the option of entering a covenant of marriage. State Senator Dennis Kruse has reintroduced the bill, which he and proponents believe would strengthen the sanctity of marriage. Opponents worry about negative implications of such a law.
Specifically, Senate Bill 214 would provide a couple with the voluntary option of designating a covenant or contract marriage when applying for a marriage license. This Indiana covenant marriage would also establish a procedure for declaring an Indiana covenant marriage and provide limited grounds for legal separation or dissolution of the marriage.
Kruse introduced this bill last legislative session in reaction to current divorce rates in the state and their effects on all involved. According to a 2004 U.S. Census Bureau statistic in a Muncie Free Press story, approximately half of Indiana marriages ended in divorce. Kruse shared his belief that too many people enter into marriage without the preparation and commitment necessary to make it last. Under an Indiana covenant marriage, a couple would have to get pre-marriage counseling, which would help them learn about the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage.
According to Kruse, a covenant marriage would help couples take their marriages more seriously, reinforce the importance of family values and help reduce the common problems associated with divorce, including financially needy families and emotionally scarred children. However, Kruse's faith in the power of an Indiana covenant marriage is not shared by all.
Opponents of an Indiana covenant marriage bill view the concept as being too religious in nature. In the Muncie Free Press story, Kruse is quoted as describing Indiana covenant marriage as "a contract between the bride, groom and God." Opponents of covenant marriage have also expressed concern that the limited grounds for legal separation or dissolution causing couples to stay in unhealthy relationships where physical abuse may ensue.
Indiana is not the only state considering a covenant marriage bill. The Texas Legislature has also been considering adopting a Texas covenant marriage law, which would only allow divorce in rare circumstances like abuse. For a couple to even consider getting a divorce under the proposed Texas covenant marriage statute, they would have to receive professional or clerical counseling.
The estimated cost of instituting covenant marriage in Indiana is about $20,000, and the bill, which has already stalled once, has a long way to go before it becomes law.