Pre-marital education bill fails in Legislature

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SALT LAKE CITY¬†— Utah lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would reduce the cost of marriage license fees for engaged couples who go through a pre-marital education course.

Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan, sponsored HB332, to create a pilot program.

Bryan Pearson
The Utah Capitol is home to the Utah Legislature every January through March. (Bryan Pearson)HB332 is a pilot program that allows counties to opt-in and encourage at least three hours of pre-marital education and counseling, while reducing marriage licensing fees by $20 for the engaged couple that participates. Those that choose not to participate will donate that extra $20 to the Marriage Commission for funding purposes.

Redd was adamant with the fact that having counties participate in pre-marital education and counseling will help more marriages last, and will help couples to be more prepared for that important step in their lives.

“Pre-marital education will help couples maintain effective communication skills, and financial management,” Redd said. “On top of that, it would help in providing a safe, nurturing environment for future children.”

Redd maintained that the three hours of pre-marital education can come from a variety of sources: from an online course, approved by the Marriage Commission in Utah, or by counseling from a variety of professional sources.

Jean Home, from the Catholic Diocese in Salt Lake City, was present in support of the bill, and said that pre-marital counseling is something that the Catholic Church already requires.

“We require that people that want to get married talk to their priest four to six months before the union,” Home said. “They must go through at least eight hours of courses prior to the marriage.”

Home later joked, “Our only concern is if they’ll be okay with the big reduction in hours.”

Alan Hawkins, Chair of the Utah Marriage Commission, attended the meeting to talk about the financial implications of a bill like this one. He estimates that couples attending pre-marital education courses will save the state around $2,000,000 from reduced costs on parental fragmenting, and family fragmentation.

“The opt-in provision of the bill puts the burden on us, as a commission, to work with the counties and answer any questions, or resolve any concerns they might have,” Hawkins said. “We need to make sure they’re satisfied with the ability to offer an incentive for couples to participate.”

Participation in the pre-marital courses and counseling will help eliminate doubts and concerns that the couples may have prior to marriage, according to Hawkins.

“Many (couples) come with doubts, and a lack of confidence about the relationship,” Hawkins said. “Encouraging them to work a little bit harder on the front end makes sense for them, and it also makes physical sense for the state.”

“The reason why this is important is because there’s a number of people who have participated in these kinds of interventions before marriage, and have had more successful marriages, and have identified problems they might have before they’re in,” Redd said.

The bill passed favorably in front of the committee 5-1, with the one “Nay” coming from Senator Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal. It passed on Tuesday to the Senate Rules Committee.

 

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