Pie-Crust Promises

A few weeks ago a good friend walked into my office and delivered some bad news: His wife of 11 years had announced that she wanted to separate. In a matter of a few moments, his life, and his little boy’s life, were turned upside-down. Unfortunately, my friend’s story—while tragic—is not unique. Every day, thousands of husbands and wives receive the same bad news. No-fault divorce laws give people legal encouragement to treat their marriage vows like pie crust—easily made, easily broken. But pie-crust marriage vows may soon become a thing of the past, at least in one state. Louisiana has just passed a law called the Covenant Marriage Act as an option for couples committed to the sanctity of marriage. Louisiana couples may now choose between a marriage license that permits a "no-fault" divorce or a "covenant marriage" license—one that commits them to marriage for life. In covenant marriage, the law will recognize adultery, abuse, or abandonment, (or a lengthy separation) as the only legal grounds for divorce. If a couple chooses covenant marriage, they’re required to have premarital counseling. But if the couple decides against a covenant marriage—well, at least both bride and groom will know that their intended spouse plans to walk down the aisle with his or her fingers crossed. This is important information for potential mates to know, because some 80 percent of divorces are unilateral, sought by just one party. As Maggie Gallagher writes in First Things, a more accurate term for no-fault divorce would be "unilateral divorce on demand." Louisiana law now gives spouses some protection against unilateral divorce. Nobody is forced to choose covenant marriage, but if couples do choose it, the law requires that their commitment to spouse and children take precedence over personal desires for self-fulfillment. The new law is already making couples think twice about their wedding plans. Louisiana resident Mark McDonald, who plans to marry in October, told the Washington Post, "I told [my fiancee] that I didn’t want to go through with it if she didn’t want a [covenant marriage]…. I’m serious about making this a lifelong commitment." The ACLU is planning a court challenge to the Covenant Marriage Act, citing possible hardships on abused spouses. But this argument is a sham. The Louisiana law specifically cites abuse as grounds for divorce. What really bothers the ACLU is that Louisianans are using the law’s teaching power to send a clear message about the sanctity of marriage. As Maggie Gallagher writes in her book The Abolition of Marriage, for 30 years "no-fault" divorce laws have taught the American people that marriage is merely a temporary arrangement—one that can be dissolved at the whim of either party. But the Covenant Marriage Act teaches the opposite lesson: that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman-so long as they both shall live. I hope you’ll call your own state lawmakers and encourage them to support covenant marriage legislation like Louisiana’s. If people like my friend are going to be spared the heartache of broken promises, the law must begin to teach us once again that marriage vows must not crumble like pie crust.


Chuck Colson


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