SB54: Bill to provide marriage license discount passes in House committee

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The Utah State Capitol is pictured on at the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake City. SB54, which would encourage premarital education or counseling for engaged couples, passed in House committee on Monday, Feb. 26. (Savannah Hopkinson)

SB54, which would provide a $20 discount on marriage licenses for couples who complete premarital counseling or education, passed in House committee Monday morning.

The bill passed 7-2-1 in the House Economic and Workforce Services committee. The next step is to discuss the bill on the House floor.

“Typically, in Utah, we have 25,000 marriages a year. About ten thousand of those are going to end up in divorce,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Allen M. Christensen, R-North Ogden.

In the committee meeting Monday, Christensen spoke about the substantial cost of divorces to the state.

The bill only applies to counties with online license applications. Utah County is currently the only county to fit that criteria, but Christensen said other counties are in the process of creating online systems.

BYU senior and family life major student Megan Griffes attended the hearing and presented her petition in favor of the bill, which has gained over 800 signatures in the past couple of weeks.

“There is a lot of grass-root support for this bill, both among my peers, who will be marrying in Utah soon, as well as many others,” Griffes said.

Paul Schvaneveldt, current cochair of the Utah Marriage Commission, also testified in support of the bill at the committee meeting.

“The bill encourages greater participation in premarital education, which research shows can help couples build a stronger foundation for marriage and reduce the chances of divorce,” Schvaneveldt said. “Many divorces come from marriages that begin with very significant problems and doubts during the engagement period.”

According to Schvaneveldt, The Utah Commission will seek the support of the wedding industry. They will ask vendors to match an additional $20 discount on their services to couples who invest in premarital counseling or education.

For couples who choose not to complete premarital counseling or classes, their marriage license will not increase in cost, but $20 of their license fee will go to support the services of the Utah Marriage Commission.

Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, said the idea of the bill intrigues her but that she is skeptical about government oversight in matters as private as marriage.

“I’m very skeptical of helicopter governing,” Acton said.

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