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Conventional Thinking: ‘Covenant marriage’ is OK

Our society loves a good wedding. The long work of creating a solid marriage, though, is less exciting to people. Too often, marriages end as quickly as they begin, resulting in a tragic wake of family breakdown and broken-hearted adults and children.

A positive option to address that problem has reemerged and is being considered at 23rd and Lincoln. Oklahoma Senate Bill 105, by state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, and Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, allows for the designation of a “covenant marriage” and limits the grounds on which marriages may be dissolved.

To be specific, S.B. 105 would require couples seeking a covenant marriage to get pre-marital counseling and would limit divorce, permitting it on the grounds of adultery, physical or psychological abuse, abandonment. The bill makes other exceptions, such as separated couples, who cannot reconcile through counseling after a year, may get a divorce.

Three other states—Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas—have the option of covenant marriage for men and women getting married. There is evidence to show that policies such as these, which limit the grounds for dissolving the marriage, have curbed the divorce rate.

A typical marriage may currently be dissolved easily on the ground of incompatibility, which has fed the high divorce rate in Oklahoma. You do not need to be an expert to show that this has had a tremendously adverse effect on the children of this state.

The aim of covenant marriage for Oklahoma, meanwhile, would be to make marriages more permanent and stable for newly married couples. The bill continues to progress through the Oklahoma State Legislature, thanks to leaders in the State Senate and State House. More steps must happen before it becomes law, and a lower divorce rate should not be a partisan issue.

Covenant marriage is entirely optional, so you would think the opposition would be minimal to none. When it was attempted in Oklahoma before, however, opponents came of the woodwork and played on people’s fears. Foes have re-appeared in 2013.

One opponent has said, “Eliminating the only ground (for ‘incompatibility’) on which one can seek a divorce in Oklahoma without creating unnecessary bitterness will cause parties to be more acrimonious than parsimonious…”

Too often, people try to make messy break-ups cleaner. They wish to protect “incompatibility” (or its cousin “no-fault” divorce in other states) to create a path of least resistance. Yet, by its very nature, divorce means something went wrong, and, thus, someone must accept blame. Therefore, Oklahoma is wise to introduce an option that attempts to place real reasons for divorce back into the marriage equation. It does us no good as a society to sugar coat the bitter pill of divorce.

Only time would tell if people who opted for the covenant marriage license over a standard license creates a decline in divorce. Yet to preclude Oklahoma from even trying this policy would not be wise at this critical time.

Oklahoma, whose divorce rate historically has ranked among the highest of states, now has a chance to become a leader in lasting marriages through enacting covenant marriage. While much more divorce reform is needed if we are truly to stem the tide in Oklahoma, a policy like covenant marriage is a good first step to stop future family breakdown in our state.

Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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  • Forrest Claunch

    Brian:

    As a member of the Resolutions Comm. at the Salt Lake City SBC meeting, I carried a covenant marriage resolution to the floor. It was no surprise to me that for several years former Oklahoma State Rep. Jim Reese had tried to pass a covenant marriage bill in the Legislature, and could not. What did surprise me was the number of questions I fielded and the number of messengers that did not vote for the resolution, even though it passed at the SBC in Salt Lake City.

    All 50 states adopted NO FAULT divorce, and in my opinion it has contributed immeasurably to the divorce rate in our nation. Covenant marriage is a good idea and worthy of support.

    Forrest Claunch

  • Terry Beals

    I agree with Forrest, a good man and conscientious about Christian convictions. I will not perform a marriage without first counseling the couple. This was my decision long before covenant marriage came along but I signed the agreement several years ago and have not had any problem with telling the couples I cannot do the wedding without counseling. I have had some go elsewhere but I tried. Couples do not realize what they are getting into and they need someone to help them get on the right track and hopefully come back for more help if they need it. I think we should stand firm on the Bible when it says that God hates divorce and try to make it a rare event, especially in the church. Laws don’t make it happen but laws make people think. I am for it.

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