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Jewish World Review March 27, 2001 / 3 Nissan, 5761

Anna M. Tinsley

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Consumer Reports

Proposed law would create a covenant marriage that's designed to make unions stronger and last longer -- AUSTIN, Texas -- Texans getting ready to say "I do" could choose to make it more difficult to get a divorce under a bill that state lawmakers are considering.

A proposal by state Sen. Tom Haywood, R-Wichita Falls, would create a covenant marriage that's designed to make unions stronger and last longer.

Some groups oppose the bill, saying it could lead to family violence and violate the separation of church and state.

The measure would give couples the option of choosing more stringent premarital requirements and marital obligations. Couples that agree to a covenant marriage would undergo premarital counseling and vow to obtain counseling if problems arise during the marriage.

A similar measure failed in 1999.

"We want to give Texans a marriage option that will emphasize that a marriage is a lifelong commitment," said Haywood. "I hope to help couples have as successful a marriage as mine - 40 years and counting."

Covenant marriages limit the grounds for divorce mainly to physical or sexual abuse, adultery, abandonment or a conviction of a felony resulting in imprisonment. It requires couples to live apart for two years before filing for divorce.

"Making it harder to get out of a bad marriage isn't going to solve anything," said Hannah Riddering, spokeswoman with the Texas chapter of the National Organization for Women.

In 1999, there were 76,689 divorces and 184,110 marriages in Texas, the state Bureau of Vital Statistics reports.

Covenant marriages exist in Louisiana and Arizona.

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