May 25, 2007 — Texas legislation that would double the marriage license fee for couples who do not attend eight hours of a premarital education class is sitting upon the desk of Governor Rick Perry and waiting for his John Hancock.
The Texas Legislature recently approved the so-called Healthy Marriage Bill, a measure which waives the marriage license fee and three-day waiting period to get married in the state for all couples who attend the premarital education courses. Republican state Representative Warren Chisum of Pampa sponsored this proposed marriage law and opined in an ABC News story that divorce is destroying the country.
The story detailed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reported that the number of Texas divorce cases in 2005 were second only to Florida. Specifically, there were more than 74,000 Texas divorces two years ago; numbers which were down from the 84,000 divorces in Texas in 2003.
By attending premarital counseling, Chisum has said that Texas couples will have to acknowledge that achieving a healthy marriage requires discussion of certain issues, like expectations, forgiveness and caring for someone who is sick. With such education in mind, Chisum added that Texas couples would be less likely to divorce the first time their marriage hits a rough patch, and rather work through their problems and ultimately build stronger marriages.
Maggie Russell, Chair of the Texas Fatherhood and Marriage Leadership Institute (FAMLI), agreed and attributed thousands of Texas divorces to the fact that many couples have not attended marriage skills building classes.
While Chisum and Russell are all for this proposed law, Democratic state legislators have been less than thrilled with it. They have called this legislation a "marriage tax" and have said that it's not the duty of the government to save the institution of marriage.
Representative Pete Gallego said in a recent online keyetv.com story that marriage success is all about personal responsibility. He even cited Republican hypocrisy in the ABC News story. Gallego cited Ronald Reagan and how he said that government was not the answer, and then wondered why Republicans "want to look into people's bedrooms."
Partisanship aside, the ABC News story detailed how a Perry spokesman said that the Texas Governor was supportive of the legislation's intentions but needed to read the final text before offering a public declaration of support.
If this legislation were to be signed into law, Chisum said that it would take effect September 1st. At that point, Chisum added that each of the 253 counties in Texas would be able to file with a list of locations offering the premarital education class and eliminating the $30 marriage license fee.
Chisum further stated that Texas would offer its own eight-hour generic course and provide grants to couples who wanted to participate in the class but couldn't afford it. According to HB2683, these marriage skills programs would cost the state $7.5 million annually.