SB54: Bill would give discount on marriage licenses for premarital education

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Savannah Hopkinson
Elizabeth Baker and her fiancé Michael Ruesch discuss their experience attending a marriage prep class. SB54 would give a $20 marriage bill fee discount to couples who take marriage prep classes. (Savannah Hopkinson)

BYU professors and soon-to-be married students like a proposed bill introduced in the 2018 Legislature that would provide a $20 discount on marriage license fees for couples who have taken a marriage prep class.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, is sponsoring SB54 which, if passed, would provide an incentive for couples to take marriage prep classes. The bill would give the discount on marriage license fees for couples who have participated in premarital classes or counseling.

Dr. Alan Hawkins, BYU’s associate director for the School of Family Life, and other members of the Utah Marriage Commission have been working for years to get a bill like this passed.

“The goal is to promote educational services to help couples form and sustain healthy, stable marriages,” Hawkins said.

The Utah Marriage Commission hopes providing an incentive for premarriage education will decrease divorce rates and promote healthier relationships.

“We know that divorce rates in our society are high We know that most divorces come as a result of couples who get off to kind of bad starts,” Hawkins said. The goal of the bill is to provide an incentive for couples to get off to a better start before their marriage.

BYU senior Elizabeth Baker spoke about the marriage prep class she had taken with her fiancé Michael Ruesch. “One of the things I’ve learned is that marriage doesn’t solve all your problems. A lot of people think once I’m married I won’t have to struggle, but we are going to have a lot of struggles they’re just going be different struggles,”

“There’s a lot of things I didn’t think about especially financial decisions that I didn’t even factor into the equation,” Baker said.

The bill would require premarital education to include content on commitment, communication and problem-solving skills.

When speaking about the importance of premarital education BYU’s marriage prep Professor Tammy Hill said, “My own children cannot get married, or at least I will not pay for their weddings, until they have had four sessions of premarital counseling. I believe we put way too much emphasis on the wedding, and less emphasis on the relationship.”

The proposed bill would require six hours of premarriage classes or three hours of counseling in order for couples to get a $20 discount on their marriage license.

The bill would allow counties to raise the marriage license fees in order to compensate for any loss of revenue from these discounts. Any such rises are predicted to be between $5-$20.

For those couples who do not participate in marriage education or counseling the $20 they pay would go to support marriage educational services across Utah as managed by the Utah Marriage Commission.

The Utah Marriage Commission has proposed many similar bills to try to encourage premarriage education and counseling that have not been passed in prior legislatures.

“This year we think we’ve anticipated some of those challenges. We see a smoother path. And hoping that the legislature agrees with us,” Hawkins said.

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