February 17, 2005

Huckabee Hearts Marriage?

Thanks to Francis for pointing out this post arguing against covenant marriages." I knew I felt a little icky about this movement, which is currently making headlines in Arkansas, but couldn't exactly explain why.

Money quote:

"Covenant Marriage" implicitly suggests that people won't stay married unless they subject themselves to onerous governmental restrictions on their personal freedoms; basically, it's the state telling you that it expects you to get a divorce at some point, unless it makes it too annoying for you to get a divorce to make it worth your while.

Call me a cynic, but I also suspect that Governor Huckabee's motivation in pushing covenant marriages stems as much from the idea of preventing divorce as it does from protecting so-called traditional marriages from homosexuals. Facing a growing threat from so-called "activist judges," it probably occurred to the governor that high divorce rates weren't exactly bolstering the claim that legalizing gay marriage would somehow threaten heterosexual marriages. Arkansas has the second highest divorce rate in the country - the top prize goes to Nevada - and probably wants to board up its glass house before it starts thowing stones.

Scalzi argues that if there's anything good in the Arkansas covenant marriage movement, it's that it forces those who take the pledge to engage in pre-marital counseling which might prevent bad marriages in the first place. There's no question that more successful marriages are in the best interests of everyone - except divorce lawyers, of course - but I'm skeptical of getting the government more involved in this process, as those who favor covenant marriages would like to see happen. Once the government starts requiring pre-marital counseling, we'll only be one step closer to a law allowing the government to dictate the content of that counseling.

After all, the U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed J. Leon Holmes, a judicial nominee who once wrote, “The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church/and as the Church subordinates herself to Christ, in that manner the wife is to subordinate herself to Christ.” Judge Holmes now serves on a U.S. District Court in - guess where? - Arkansas.

Posted by Doug at February 17, 2005 01:34 PM

The mexican government has two hours -one session- of premarital counseling, which involves you and a hundred other couples listening to a mousy woman tell you the 16 reasond you can use legally for divorce, and explaining each one.

One of them being: If within the first two months of marriage you decide this is not what you expected, you can get a divorce withing days and you are deemed to never have been married at all.

So how's that for government counseling?

Posted by: maria at February 18, 2005 01:53 PM

That's not bad, actually. I have no problem with the government requiring couples to understand the laws on the books as they relate to marriage before they get married (which sounds like what you are describing). Seems similar to getting a list of rules of the road before you get your driver's license.

But if the government sat drivers down and told them what kind of cars to buy or what color cars were legal in certain states, what brand of gas to buy, or what bumper stickers could go on their cars, there'd probably be a lot of uproar from businesses and citizen advocacy groups alike.

It's the area of psychological counseling or therapy where I wouldn't want the government involved. If the government gave out tips for a happy marriage, I'd be afraid of religious influences on that advice.

Posted by: Doug at February 18, 2005 03:41 PM

I am glad I am not the only one totally frightened by the religious right's influence on our personal rights. It is completely disgusting to me. Hipocracy at its highest! Not to get all religious here, their actions certainly don't seem very "Christian"... which I always thought meant being good to others, showing kindness and acceptance. I mean, I feel that a WHOLE group of people are losing their voice here. How are we letting this very conservative group of people not only dictate WHO can marry but what KIND of marriage counseling goes on and what kinds of marriages are allowed? It's beyond me. This is the United States and I feel that I'm living in the 13th century!!

Posted by: Meg at February 26, 2005 12:30 PM