With five out of every 1,000 Oklahomans getting a divorce, a state lawmaker has introduced a piece of legislation which would allow soon-to-be-wed couples to strengthen the meaning of their vows by voluntarily choosing a covenant marriage; an option which opponents feel will have little to no effect on divorce rates in the state.
Representative John Wright has introduced a bill which he feels would reduce these high Oklahoma divorce rates by stressing a higher level of commitment between partners. If choosing an Oklahoma covenant marriage, couples would be required to attend marriage counseling at least 15 days before exchanging their vows. These couples could only get divorced in instances of abuse, adultery, fraud, abandonment or an 18-month separation period without reconciliation, according to a story on FoxNews.com.
Wright is quoted in the story as saying that divorce is too often "an easy out-mechanism" and that good marriages require work. Wright adds that this Oklahoma covenant marriage bill would also eliminate "incompatibility" as grounds for divorce in a state which the story says ranks along with its Bible-belt neighbors as having some of the highest divorce rates in the United States.
According to the story, the Oklahoma divorce rate was 6.8 for every 1,000 people ten years ago. While current Oklahoma divorce rates seem to be a drop off, less people have gotten married in the state since 1994. For example, the story says that there were 6.4 Oklahoma marriages for every 1,000 people in 2004 as compared to nine marriages for every 1,000 people in 1994.
While Wright feels that an Oklahoma covenant marriage option would make people take marriage more seriously and result in fewer divorces in the state, opponents to this bill couldn't disagree anymore. Robert Spector is a University of Oklahoma law professor who especially shares this opinion.
Spector says that an Oklahoma divorce law which makes it harder to get divorced would only lead to more litigation and money for divorce attorneys. He cites statistics in states like Louisiana and Arkansas, which currently allow engaged couples to voluntary choose a covenant marriage. According to Spector, less than 5% of couples in those states have elected such a union.
This Oklahoma divorce bill was approved in the state House earlier this week by a 93-7 vote and now moves to the Senate, which has opposed similar bills in the past. According to Oklahoma Senator Richard Lerblance, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will refuse to hear such a bill. Lerblance elaborates in the story that he does not feel it is the state's role to make a couple stay married against their will.
Oklahoma joins Indiana and Texas as states considering a covenant marriage bill in 2007. A Texas covenant marriage bill would make it harder to get divorced in the state by requiring couples to undergo professional and clerical counseling before even considering Texas divorce. An Indiana convenant marriage bill would make it equally as hard to get married by requiring couples to learn about the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage during the pre-marriage counseling.