Several U.S. states’ experiments with “covenant marriages” and other measures to decrease divorce are finding support and reinforcement from religious groups.
The Weekly Standard magazine (Sept. 29) reports that Louisiana’s recent covenant marriage act offers married couples the choice of a “high test” version of marriage; counseling is required both before marriage and divorce, and no-fault divorce is available only after a two-year separation, as opposed to six months under the existing state law.
Although the results are not yet evident, “friends and foes of Louisiana’s innovation believe it is portentous. Indeed, similar legislation is pending in Indiana and California, not to mention bills in half a dozen other states to either restrict no-fault divorce or add counseling requirements before marriage or divorce,” writes Christopher Caldwell.
There is “huge sympathy” for covenant marriages among the religious. “One of the best indicators is the announced willingness of clergymen to use the state law as a test of the seriousness of affiliated couples. Several Episcopal and Baptist ministers have already gone on the record as saying they will grant church marriages only to those who are serious enough to undertake a covenant-marriage commitment,” Caldwell writes.
Although there is a secular dimension to these measures, seen in such supporters as Amitai Etzioni of the Communitarian movement, the sponsor of the Louisiana law is 34-year-old Tony Perkins, a Republican legislator who is active in the evangelical Promise Keepers movement.
(The Weekly Standard, 1150 17th St., N.W., Suite 505, Washington, DC 20036-4617)