The following is a response to the Feb. 10 Standard-Examiner "Our View," "Marriage, government and divorce":
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The goal of House Bill 132 is to provide an incentive for couples to receive marriage education or counseling prior to marrying with the hope of preventing divorce later on.
The bill does not force people to participate in premarital education or counseling, but merely provides an incentive by offering a lower cost for obtaining a marriage license ($20 instead of $65) for those who complete three hours of premarital education or counseling.
It allows for religious organizations to provide these services without government oversight. House Bill 132 is important because people often go into a marriage unprepared, lacking knowledge and skills necessary for a successful and stable marriage.
Benjamin Franklin once stated that before marriage you should have your eyes wide open and then half shut afterwards (Poor Richards Almanac, 1738). I interpret this as meaning that people should be more aware and knowledgeable about marriage before they make such an important commitment.
Certainly, nobody should be forced to stay in a dysfunctional or abusive situation, but many marital problems can be prevented or improved through better knowledge and skills.
Marriage is vital and very important to any society. A healthy couple relationship is important in creating a healthy family environment where children grow and develop. All too often, couples do not succeed in their marriages with half ending in divorce (and Utah is no exception to this fact).
The purpose of House Bill 132 is to provide an incentive for couples to be better prepared and educated about communication, problem solving, resource management, expectations, and commitment. This bill provides an incentive to learn these essential and important skills, hopefully resulting in happier and more stable marriages.
Nationally, divorce costs tax payers more than $112 billion annually and in Utah more than $276 million. The taxpayers are left paying for the costs of family fragmentation by providing for housing, food, health care, cash assistance, remedial education, and many other forms of public assistance (not to mention the emotional impact on children and adults).
The current bill simply provides an incentive for couples to become more aware and better prepared for one of the most important decisions they will ever make. The bill does not require or mandate such education but merely provides a small incentive for those who do seek out premarital education or counseling.
I would encourage the Standard-Examiner Editorial Board to better educate themselves on the requirements of the bill before making what I call inaccurate statements that the bill forces or mandates premarital education or counseling.
I would encourage passage of this bill as it provides an important mechanism for couples to better prepare themselves for marital success and stability.
Paul Schvaneveldt, Ph.D., CFLE, is the vice chairman of the Utah Commission on Marriage. He lives in North Ogden.
Editor's note: The Standard-Examiner Editorial Board stands by its opinion.