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MARCH 20, 2009 10:48AM

Marriage and Family Values?

Rate: 12 Flag

The Florida Family Policy Council, headed by John Stemberger, has announced the launch of  “Strong Marriages Florida.”  This proposed legislation will make people applying for a marriage license pay an additional $100.00 in addition to the present cost of the license and attend eight hours of premarital counseling sessions using a 150 question “premarital inventory” identifying areas where potential spouses disagree.  This inventory also asks if the couple is living together already, which is discouraged by the counseling.
According to Stemberger, those who attend the counseling would get the $100.00 back.  The money from those who don’t attend counseling will be funneled through the Department of Children and Families into a Marriage Education Trust Fund to fund faith-based premarital counseling groups.  Not just any faith-based groups, mind you, only the ones that believe as the group backing the proposal do. The Florida Family Policy Council, associated with Focus on the Family, is working with Live the Life and Marriage Savers on this proposed legislation.

Marriage Savers states on their website these threats to marriage and society:  divorce, cohabitation, unwed births, and people choosing not to marry.
Part of his supposed reasoning is that this initiative would save the state $100 million by reducing divorces in Florida by 10%, and divorce costs the state by causing poverty in single parent households.
Steinberger is quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying "Basically, when we succeeded with Amendment 2, we asked ourselves: What do we want to do next?  We wanted to do something big."

Ok, so last fall, the notion of same sex marriage was the biggest threat to the institution of marriage.  Now it’s divorce, cohabitation, and folks who choose not to marry.  Which is it?  I’d really like to know.  I am a straight, married mother of three.  I would really like someone to explain to me how same sex marriage, other couples’ divorce, other people not marrying, living together or not will affect my marriage, because I have not figured out how.
However, that is not the issue.  The issue is that Stemberger and his lot are not content with the passing of Amendment 2 in Florida and Proposition 8 in California, and other laws like these that have passed against same sex marriage.  Now he has to keep going and meddle in more people’s lives.
These people say that they want more people to marry and stay married.  They say that cohabitation, divorce, and just plain not marrying are the problem with society, and yet, they propose laws that make it harder and more expensive to get a marriage license.  Of course, the same proposal would make it harder to get a divorce, too.  No more no fault divorce, and a one year waiting period from filing to finalization.  The counseling, according to their websites will help to strengthen marriages and stabilize crisis marriages.  The whole idea behind this is to make it more difficult to get divorced.
This thinking is not only backward, but for some, dangerous, maybe even life threatening.  If someone is a victim of spousal abuse, for instance, she or he, once they make their escape plan and leave, dragging out the divorce would make the situation more dangerous.  
If this legislation were to pass, it would be counterproductive, not only society, but also to their cause, as fewer people could afford the marriage license and would just live together.

These people managed to introduce Prop 8 and Amendment 2 and get them passed.  Now, they’re introducing this “Strong Marriages Florida” to get more of what they want passed into law.  How long are we the people going to let this go on?  Amendment 2 and Prop 8 passed because people thought that it looked good on the surface, without much thought about how the laws affect others.  And here they go again, “doing something big” to follow it.
We the people need to look at the proposals that come up for vote, and read them thoroughly, and think them through before we vote on them.
Many  people voted yes on Prop 8 and Amendment 2 because it denied rights to the gays and lesbians and not them. Maybe the voters wanted to deny rights to gays and lesbians, and maybe they just didn’t think it through.  So now they’re messing with heterosexual marriages and relationships.  What’s next?  Think before you vote, people.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

-Martin Niemoller

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I don't understand why anyone is threatened by homosexuals marrying. What does it have to do with me? Nothing.

Soon my non-religious marriage isn't going to be allowed.
I don't mind the idea of a semi-mandatory pre-marital counseling session... IN THEORY. I mean, goodness knows, most folks don't enter into a marriage with their eyes wide open. After 12 years (and two separations) my wife and I have finally gotten to the point where we know what it's all about and are finally settling into a pleasant, harmonious shared existence. We probably could have used a little pre-marital counseling.

However... who is really qualified to counsel anyone on what makes a marriage work? There is no template for a perfect marriage, and there are certainly no standards by which to judge it.

Also, it's pretty obvious that this proposed legislation is more about foisting someone's standard of morality upon the rest of the world, and less about making actual people actually happy.
Of course, when it comes to programs that actually help people who need it, like health insurance for working-class children, these are the same folks who vote against them because they don't like "big government." Rated.
Kaysong, I had heard something sometime back about civil marriages not being recognized. I'm not sure why, though. I'll have to check that out.

Aaron, It seems that the conservatives only rant about big government when they don't agree with what the government is doing. This proposal is being presented by a conservative organization.
It's social engineering by people who think everyone must believe the same as them.
Bunglermoose, there's nothing wrong with premarital counseling, and it could be argued that more people should get it, but there's not one right way that's for everyone.
The idea of increasing the marriage license fee for counseling has been around Florida since I worked for the Supreme Court there. We were successful in implementing required parenting classes for divorcing parents that was paid for from increased marriage license fees. Family court judges wanted these required classes because of the emotional abuse they saw visited on children by divorcing parents.

I see a serious problem with the pre-marriage counseling being only faith based but have no problem with requiring that fee and counseling for those who want to marry in the state. Marriages cost the state and taxpayers money when 5o% to 60% fail later in terms of providing mediators, a court system, and guardian ad litem system for the children. The state also has to maintain a professional agency to direct child support checks and to maintain child support enforcement. If people had to think longer about the decision to marry then some might forego that decision . . . which would reduce related divorce expenses down the line. I could list other costs that come from marriage that the state bears (domestic abuse units, counselors etc.) So the State of Florida has been messing with heterosexual marriages for a long time. This because marriage while ideally being a spiritual union is also a legal contract made binding by the state in which one marries.

So I do think before I vote. I don't like the conservative spin that organization and its website put on the idea -- but that does not make such counseling evil too.
More of the same mean spirited right wing hooey. Peddle it in your churches - the rest of us have seen enough of this!
"Where are the conservatives ranting about government getting too big and in the way of people's lives? Seems like their voice is missing here.

Thanks for the update."

Excellent observation. Conservatives are against big government only when it's run by liberals. When it's a faith-based (Christianity-based) policy messed with the lives of people they seem to have a sudden case of muteness.
Check out the Marriage Savers website, Dorinda- this is not objective counseling we're talking about. And it sounds like they'd like to get divorce eliminated. Divorce is a necessary option- and not just for cases of abuse. This is disturbing.
How did Florida get taken over by the Anita Brigade?

And the idea that conservatives like small government is a right-wing fueled myth. History does not bear that out.
What I don't understand is why there is the incessant want/longing to be involved in someone elses life in such a vicarious way...does this signify the lifelessness we see in the conservative movement these days? The phrase "Get a life" comes to mind...
This legislation seems like 2 things:

1) A money-grab: tax those who won't subject themselves to our self-righteous moralizing viewpoint about what marriage should and shouldn't be.

2) An attempt to put the backing of the government behind a particular group of ideas and opinions about how people should live.

as the t-shirt says, "God Save Us ....... from your followers!"
I'll give them props for at least being consistent: if you're going to try to bar gays from marrying because it "destroys the institution," going after would-be divorcees is the logical and even ethical next step. I just think both are wrong-headed.

But if this part of your write-up is correct, "Not just any faith-based groups, mind you, only the ones that believe as the group backing the proposal do," passing this won't matter because it won't subsequently pass Constitutional muster. It would be easy to challenge it on establishment grounds.

I'm so looking forward to the day when these people can only look back in shame at the bigoted way they interpreted their faiths.
Dorinda, My complaint is not with the idea of premarital counseling. I do have issues with the government requiring counseling from a particular religion.

incandescent, My husband and I have been married for 20 years, and like you said, you do have to work to make a marriage work. But no one thing works for everyone, therefore it should not be legislated for everyone.
While I as a Christian and Conservative I applaud what FFPC is trying to do I just think they are going about it the wrong way. This is something that needs to be handled outside of government. I understand that they are trying to make divorce harder and I'm ok with that. Frankly, it's too easy to get divorced these days and that is why people do it. Statistically, cohabitation leads to unstable relationships as well but not in all cases. I can't understand why a couple would live together for long periods of time WITHOUT marriage anyway but if that's what you want to do then fine. I just don't see the point. I mean if you can't commit to each other then what is the point? I think it's too easy to hit the "chicken" button when things get tough and I've seen it several times. However, I think the counseling is a good idea since there are many couples who could benefit from it. It should not be mandatory nor should you be penalized for not following through. We've had enough government in our lives lately and I'm not a fan of allowing more.
Nancy: That's kinda what I was saying. I think it's always a good idea to get some kind of pre-marital counseling... I just question the motives in this case.
Aaron Rury - OK. I am a conservative. A fiscal conservative.
Not a moral judge. And yes this is gov BS. I guess I could say it will save money, but I never buy the argument that charging tax or fees now saves money later. Maybe it does, maybe it does not. But that is always the rational for social engineering on either side.

So how is this any different than Obama trying to change state law by giving fed money away. Its all the same . Using money to change behavior.
Rob - What an great statement.

This legislation seems like 2 things:
2) An attempt to put the backing of the government behind a particular group of ideas and opinions about how people should live.

I realize your words are meant to criticize this legislation, but don't you get that your statement is the exact purpose of all legislation?
You can start with the Constitution and go from there. Every single law ever written fits your description. So what exactly is your point?
Nancy - Many people voted yes on Prop 8 and Amendment 2 because it denied rights to the gays and lesbians and not them.

Have you ever voted of a thing or a politician that promised to
support something that put an imposition on someone else but not on you? Do people who pay no taxes get to vote for representatives that promise to tax all but them?
Do politicians not promise in campaigns to do things that will benefit one group at the cost of another? Yes there are people who votesfor things because it will have no effect on them and they don't think about the effect on others. It is not reserved for this issue or for a minority group. In fact minorities often vote to impose on the majority what they would not impose on themselves.
Djohn, I have no problem with the counseling per se, but like you said, it shouldn't be mandatory or government sanctioned. As for divorce, I don't think divorce is really ever easy, especially when children are involved. I think the point of the no fault divorce is to not have to drag it out in the court for so long.
Joseph, Probably at some point, many of us have voted on things that affect others, and not ourselves without thinking through. When these issues come up for vote, we should think and maybe have some empathy in our decision.
Excellent post. I once met a very powerful "pro-marriage" lobbyist whose full time job was to get laws like this passed. She was divorced, bitter and living with her boyfriend of 18 years. Classic.
Government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all. Why do I give a damn if the state approves or disapproves of who I choose to live the rest of my life with?

The government should provide three things. A military to defend the borders from foreign invasion, a minimal police force to investigate crimes of violence and theft, and a court system to enforce contracts and punish crimes of violence and theft. That's it. If you're from a filthy rich family and you believe that a marriage contract is necessary because you want a pre-nuptial agreement, then I guess that's you're choice, but it should be something that's out of the ordinary, not standard practice, it should be available to anyone, and it should be seen as nothing more than an accessory to a pre-nup.
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Awesome article. Gave you a rate.