Nanny State: Love and marriage in Texas could go together like a carrot and stick

15 April 2007

Love and marriage in Texas could go together like a carrot and stick

Polly Ross Hughes
Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — Debate over government's role in matters of love, marriage and divorce begins today when the Texas House considers a bill doubling marriage license fees to $60 unless couples take premarital classes.

Couples agreeing to eight-hour courses in conflict management and communication skills would get their marriage licenses free under the bill sponsored by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, a leading House conservative.

Chisum's bill, with its carrot-and-stick approach, is part of the Texas Conservative Coalition agenda to ease the demand for poverty programs by reducing divorce rates that can financially hurt split couples.

The package could create voluntary "covenant" marriage contracts with tougher conditions to discourage divorce and lengthen waiting periods for no-fault divorces unless couples undergo marriage crisis classes.

"It's in the state's interest for marriages to be saved," said John Colyandro, the coalition's executive director. "A lot of single parent households are in poverty. Once they're in poverty, that makes them eligible for a whole host of programs they might not otherwise be involved with."

But critics say the proposed measures — especially those lengthening waiting periods for divorces — amount to government intrusion into private lives.

While Republicans long have decried the "nanny state" of liberal social safety nets, some House Democrats now complain about the GOP meddling into highly personal decisions they say are best left to individuals.


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