A covenant marriage bill is back in play at the Iowa statehouse, a proposal to let a couple designate their union as a “covenant marriage” and make it harder for them to divorce. Republican representative Danny Carroll of Grinnell says providing the option of a covenant marriage is just a modest step to address the nation’s high divorce rate. He says “we’re frustrated because we just don’t know what to do,” and says he’s almost embarrassed at how modest this effort is. Saying lawmakers have to do something, Carroll says divorce is “one of those critical social issues.” Carroll says government has an interest in strong marriages because it is often forced to pick up the pieces when unions fail. Under the bill, couples who choose covenant marriage would not be able to obtain a no-fault divorce, but would have to prove grounds like adultery, abandonment, or physical or sexual abuse. And before granting the divorce, the court could order the couple to complete at least twelve hours of marital counseling. But democratic representative Deborah Berry of Waterloo argues that counseling should come before the wedding. She says you shouldn’t legislate marriage, and adds you can’t legislate love. Berry says if someone is not right for you, you will not stay married and making it harder to divorce isn’t the answer. When one parent wants out and the other resists saying they have to stay because of a covenant marriage, the kids will be able to sense the hostility and that won’t be any good for them. Berry says it should be left up to churches and individual couples to strengthen marriages. But the majority in the house human resources committee disagreed, voting to send the covenant marriage bill on to the full house for debate.
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