­ 1998 CMFCE ANNUAL CONFERENCE "Can Legislation Lower the Divorce Rate"

David Blankenhorn, Michael McManus, Katherine Spaht, & Scott Stanley

DAVID BLANKENHORN President, Institute for American Values Author: Fatherless America

Welcome to this workshop! It is going to be good. My name is David Blankenhorn and I will be the moderator. We are going to get down to business here with three brief presentations from our panelists, followed by discussion with you. The topic, as you know, is "Can Legislation Lower The Divorce Rate." I want to briefly give you four propositions. Some of my panelist friends might want to disagree with me, but here goes. 1. I want to suggest that marriage is, in part, a legal institution. Marriage in all of Western history has certainly been understood to contain a legal dimension. In a sense, I think to de dejuridify marriage, either in fact or in our minds, to think of it as not continuing a legal dimension is, in fact, to weaken it. 2. Law affects behavior, in marriage as in any other area of life. Corporate law affects the behavior of corporate executives and employees. The rules of major league baseball affect the activities of major league baseball players and the rules regarding the exit and entry into marriage affect the behavior of people in that institution. 3. The marriage movement should and does contain a legal branch. 4. The question for this day, I would suggest, is not so much (although you might want to disagree with me) whether there is a legal branch to the marriage movement, but maybe the question before us is which legal reforms now being proposed across the country hold out the best opportunity for lowering the divorce rate, strengthening marriage and building the capacity of a marriage movement. That is the end of my introduction.

Let me introduce these terrific people. You know Mike McManus from Marriage Savers. I guess if anybody has "just kind of found it" the whole idea of community marriage policies, the kind of Johnny Appleseed and his low-key and understated manner helps him in this work! Scott Stanley from the University of Denver literally wrote the book on a lot of the marriage education programs and efforts. He has been working with Howard Markman and others and is well-known to you as someone who has been a pioneer in the area of marriage research and the development of really important insights into the field of marriage education. Scott Stanley, we are honored that you agreed to speak to us. Katherine Spaht is from the LSU Law Center in Louisiana. A couple of years ago she got the idea that there should be something called covenant marriage and that Louisiana ought to be the first place to have it. She began working with some of her friends who were in the legislature. In June 23, 1997 Louisiana became the first jurisdiction in the Western world to move away from no-fault divorce, thanks in no small part to the vision, leadership and hard work of Katherine Spaht. So, you could not have three better people to talk to you about this. Each of them will get about 10 minutes and then we will open it up for what I think ought to be a pretty lively discussion. I asked Katherine to go first.

COMMENTS BY KATHERINE SPAHT: LSU Law Center

Mine may take a little longer than 10 minutes because I need to explain, not only what I believe the effect of law is on culture and human behavior, but also what Louisiana's covenant marriage Law actually consists of. In fact, I think probably two-thirds of the citizens of the State of Louisiana do not know the entire content of the covenant marriage law. First, I would say that whether or not law has an effect on culture has been a matter of fierce debate for hundreds of years. I am sure we will not solve that debate or resolve it in any kind of satisfactory way for some sort of unanimous decision of this group. But, I think it is fair to say that the law is, as to marriage today, not neutral. It treats marriage as a contract that is revocable at will by either party. It ensconces then an ideal in the law that is the radical autonomy of the individual and the law precludes the possibility of a fixed, permanent, lifelong commitment. Once it is ensconced in the law, it becomes a part of the moral ecology of the people. It shapes their attitudes and it shapes their expectations. Thus, there is no doubt that there is an inner relationship between culture, between human behavior and also the law. Louisiana's legal heritage is tied to European continental codifications. In European countries they accept the fact that the purpose of the law is to lead citizens to virtue to teach them and make them noble and wise. Such an approach is clearly reflected in European family law. What the covenant law marriage in Louisiana, and now in Arizona which became the second state to adopt covenant marriage, signed by the Governor of Arizona on May 21, 1998, represents is an opportunity for virtue, an opportunity to chose a more binding commitment and to create what I think we must come to accept. Two parents committed to each other in the lifelong marriage is the optimal environment for rearing children, which is the most important thing a human society can endeavor to do. Communitarians refer to this opportunity as opportuning virtue. The virtues are learning to keep one's promises, self-sacrifice, altruism, and performing one's duties. What covenant marriage does is to ensconce in the law the ideal that marriage is to be a lifelong institution. It doesn't impose, but it permits couples to chose this ideal, whereas present law now prohibits it. To that extent, covenant marriage restores legal efficacy to the promises that are made during the marriage ceremony. Covenant marriage was envisioned as a way of strengthening marriage for the sake of the children and strengthening the cultural perception of marriage as the most important social institution. Secondly, it was envisioned as a way (and this is less widely known) of revitalizing and reinvigorating what we call mediating structures, human communities, those that nourish and act as coffers between the State and the individual. Principal among those which covenant marriage encourages and reinvigorates, is the church. It invites religion back into the public square to perform a function it is uniquely situated to do, to preserve marriages. This is true by virtue of its mall authority. The last is to accomplish greater protection by giving more leverage to the spouse who keeps his or her promises and desires to preserve the marriage. That is going to require a little more explanation, but it is a phenomenon we understand in the legal community as "bargaining in the shadow of the law." It restores power to the spouse who wants to preserve the marriage and in this context it is quite "innocent." How does covenant marriage accomplish all of those objectives? First, for the sake of the children to strength marriage, it does so by three distinguishing features of a covenant marriage. Remember that a covenant marriage is a choice that is made by a couple. The state does not impose it, but offers the opportunity to couples. What is also not as well known is that it is not only couples who are engaged and getting married who may opt for a covenant marriage, but already married couples may opt into what the media refer to euphemistically as "the high-octane variety." Brigham Young has referred to it as upgrading your marriage and I am one of those upgraders from a standard to a covenant marriage. I have been married for over 26 years, but as of November, in a covenant marriage.

Covenant marriage strengthens marriage in three different ways. First, there is mandatory premarital counseling, only for those in a covenant marriage. The content of the premarital counseling is to consist of information and exhortation about the seriousness of marriage and about the intention of the couple that it is to be a lifelong commitment. This gives the opportunity to discuss at the very outset before the marriage is celebrated, how serious an endeavor this is, that it be the intention of the two parties that it be lifelong. A conversation necessarily has to take place in which the two parties exchange notions about their own expectations concerning marriage. It is a conversation that now nothing requires, the law included, take place. The second feature which distinguishes it and one of the purposes, of course, is to strengthen marriage, is that at the time they sign the declaration - the husband and wife; that is, the declaration of a covenant marriage. In that declaration there is a legally binding agreement that if difficulties arise during the marriage, they will take all reasonable steps to preserve the marriage, including marital counseling. That agreement, as I said, is legally enforceable, permitting then one spouse to enforce, and there are different remedies, that agreement to seek a preservation of the marriage. It is a form of, in a sense, mandatory pre-divorce counseling.

Lastly, and of course this is the feature of covenant marriage that has received so much press attention. There are limited grounds for divorce, so it is more difficult to terminate a covenant marriage and more time-consuming. First, more time-consuming because the well-known "no-fault divorce" in a covenant marriage requires living separate and apart for two years in a standard or euphemistically known as "low octane marriage" 180 days living separate and apart is enough to get a divorce. So the time period is lengthier. I have heard at least one minister refer to that two-year period as the opportunity to permit marital counseling to work. One hundred and eighty days is just too short a period of time to have effective counseling so as to seek to effectively preserve the marriage.

The second and more controversial aspect of this third feature of covenant marriage is that it reintroduces broader notions of objective fault into the marital relationship. There are four fault grounds for divorce in a covenant marriage and they reflect collectively, society's condemnation of certain conduct in the marital relationship that is sufficiently offensive to society that society is willing to permit one spouse to terminate this relationship that has so much importance to the rest of his, that we all intended to be lifelong when it was contracted. One such ground is physical or sexual abuse of a spouse or a child of the parties. It is for the first time, grounds for divorce in Louisiana; before 1997 it was not. It is only in a covenant marriage. In a standard marriage it is not grounds for a divorce. What this says, of course, is strong - that this person has been at fault and the fault is so serious that the other spouse who has been offended by that cruelty may seek a divorce. This represents covenant marriage as to limiting grounds for divorce and David has referred to it. The first time in over 200 years in any Western country in which divorce has become more difficult, rather than easier, hence, not only the national publicity but international publicity the legislation has received. The second objective, of course, was to strengthen these mediating structures - the church, inviting the church back in. How does it do that? Ministers, priests, rabbis or secular marriage counselors, of course. Most, or a lot of the people who are in attendance here would fall within that category, are to provide the premarital counseling. It gives then religious clerics the opportunity to establish a relationship with the couple at the time of premarital counseling to emphasize the seriousness of marriage, but from their standpoint the religious view of marriage, to discus the inevitable challenges, but also the inevitable rewards of a marriage that it is lifelong and as important, to communicate to the couple society's expectation reflected first in the members of the congregation, but then of course, in a broader community sense, what expectations society has for this couple that this marriage will be lifelong. It also permits them in developing this relationship to sow the seeds of counseling for later instances in which marital difficulties arise, that this step that they will work to preserve their marriage through counseling.

The last is that greater protection to the spouse who keeps his or her promises, more leverage if preserving the marriage becomes impossible. Essentially what I mean by that is that during this two-year period in which the spouse who has left or has found someone else cannot get a divorce, the innocent spouse, the one who kept his or her promises and wishes to preserve the marriage, exclusively has the right to seek a divorce. So, all of the power is restored to the power who is innocent and wants to preserve this marriage. If the attempts to preserve the marriage force the other, encourage the other during this period of time to seek marital counseling fails, at the very least this party will have bargaining power to negotiate on behalf of himself or herself, or more importantly the children for greater financial and economic protection. The example I use in Louisiana is the fact that we do not permit post majority child support. At the time at which children become the most expensive, age 18, college education, the spouse who is the noncustodial parent has no responsibility to support them at all. For the innocent spouse who is concerned about the children, this gives leverage so that you can say, "I alone have the right to get this divorce within the two-year period and I will do it under the following circumstances" so that you will be free to do whatever it is you want to do. That is, you set up a trust fund for the childrens' college education. It give power back, where if power is not there for the spouse who deserves and seeks to preserve the marriage.

What has happened since it passed, of course, David as alluded to that as have I, covenant marriage legislation has been introduced in approximately 20 states. It is, of course, law in Arizona as of May 21, 1998. They had to accept more political compromises than we did, so their covenant marriage law is what I would consider a bit weaker, but they came from a far more liberal position. They had nothing but no-fault divorce in Arizona, so they came a long way with covenant marriage. It passed in two legislatures, one house, in George and Oklahoma before it was deferred in committee in the other houses. It is still pending in two legislatures, one of which is Virginia. The first time it came up for a vote it deadlocked in committee 12/12. It will be voided again before the end of the calendar year. It is pending, I believe, in North Carolina and it was introduced in May. In at least two states it is still pending. There are at least two other states who did not introduce it this year who have committed to introducing it in 1999. In Louisiana, what we know about the figures? We know very little far in terms of the numbers. Last week I received a communication from Bill Barlow who is the Director of the Department of Vital Statistics in New Orleans. The figures are coming in slowly. They are required to be compiled by the end of June but those who send in the marriage records are local Clerks of Court and we have 64. They are political office because the Clerk of Court is elected in that little body, so getting the information is a difficult thing. He hopes to have preliminary figures by the end of July.

The title of the panel is "Can Legislation Lower America's Divorce Rate?" We will know a partial answer in five years. The National Science Foundation has given a grant to Steve Knock who is here from the University of Virginia. He is a sociology professor and has submitted a grant proposal entitled "Can Louisiana's Covenant Marriage Law Solve American's Divorce Problem?" He was given a grant. All of the questionnaires have been prepared, the focus groups conducted and the gallop organization will begin polling this summer, in fact they have already started to get a baseline for this particular study. It is proposed to be a five-year study, not only covering those couples who opt into covenant marriage and whether their marriage is still in existence five years later, but also those who didn't. More broadly, what change, if any, in attitudes in Louisiana among its citizens are reflected by virtue of covenant marriage and the attention it has received. I will tell you, not much from local media. There has been a total freeze-out on the covenant marriage legislation, and that is a long story. In addition, Brigham Young has a Center of Family Life and they have thrown in another large pot of money to study those who convert already existing marriages to covenant marriage. They are interested in that aspect. What would cause people like me to upgrade their marriages through a covenant marriage. I think they are going to find that at the end of the first year, by virtue of covenant marriage weekends held in interested churches in Louisiana on the weekend of February 14 and 15, approximately 3000 to 4000 couples converted their marriages to covenant. So that will surely be the first wave of conversions. This summer Brigham Young agreed to finance its Center the identical study in Arizona, so they will be duplicated in two different states over a five-year period. The questions that I suppose may not be answered by any of us, but it will be ultimately five years hence by at least the beginning of empirical information.

COMMENTS BY MICHAEL MCMANUS Marriage Savers Author: Marriage Savers

It is a pleasure to be here with you all. I'm not an expert in the law, as Katherine Spaht is. She is a lawyer and a teacher of the law. She drafted the law in Louisiana, so she is really the expert on the law. I am a great supporter of this law. I have written columns supporting it. I believe that the law does, in fact, shape our attitudes. We know from studies of what happened when no-fault divorce moved through the system, one study of 50 states showed that on average the increase in the divorce rate within a year or two of passage of that law, there was a 25 percent jump in the divorce rate. It is understandable why this is so. In the past if you wanted a divorce from your spouse, there was a price to be paid. You would have to prove that your partner was at fault and if you wanted out of the divorce and you were at fault, then you would have to give up, perhaps ownership of the house or you would have to pay alimony to your spouse or some other consequences, and no-fault divorce basically erased in large measure any penalty for getting out of the marriage. What is more, it paid a premium for those who wanted to do it. So if, for example, a man of 40 years old said, "I'm falling in love with this girl who is 28" and he decides to ditch his wife, he can say, "Now sell the house, I want my 50 percent". So he has a "grub stake" to set up a new household. He puts his wife and children into poverty and does it unilaterally whether she wants it or not. If you buy a new car on a four-year plan and you pay three hundred dollars a month for this car and after say two years you decide you want to trade your car in - you want to break the civil contract with the dealer, you can take your car back and say, "I want to shift to a different car and I would like to have my money back for what I paid in on this car and here is car back." They would laugh at you and say, "You paid two years into this car. We are going to keep that money and we will also keep the car, thank you!" There is a price paid for breaking a civil contract. Marriage is the only contract in the country in which there is no price to be paid and that is wrong, it is morally wrong. We need to change the law. The better way to change the law is to try to reform no-fault divorce, at least for those marriages where there are children. Katherine and others have tried to get that kind of law through our legislatures and failed. The reason it is difficult to get it through is not a mystery. There are lawyers on the judiciary committees, many of whom are divorced lawyers. To be blunt about it, they are not about to push through a law which will hurt there business.

What the covenant law does is give couples a choice as to whether this is going to be a permanent marriage or not. With certain sanctions that you have heard explained, should you chose later to change your mind, it is much harder to get out of the marriage and it is a two-year waiting period and mandatory counseling. All of those things are likely to preserve marriages. What disappoints me about the law, and Katherine was starting to give the numbers, but she said that we don't have them yet because all of these people haven't reported. But, as I understand it, for the first six months only that 1 percent of couples getting married in this state had chosen a covenant marriage certificate. Frankly, that is not going to affect the divorce rate. We have got to get those numbers up to 30 to 50 percent before you are going to even begin to affect the divorce rate in a state. I put the primary blame for the lack of endorsement of the covenant marriage law partly on my perspective of journalism because the press in Louisiana has not given this much coverage and certainly not favorable coverage. The greater blame I would put on the church community itself. I write a syndicated column called "Ethics and Religion." I wrote a column taking to task the Catholic church in Louisiana for opposing this law. They did not oppose it during the legislative process, they opposed its implementation. They said, we don't believe in divorce at all; therefore we cannot endorse a covenant marriage law which allows divorce in some circumstances which is perfectly ludicrous because the covenant marriage law comes much closer to the Catholic ideal than does this law of the standard marriage law which is a marriage certificate written with disappearing ink. It would seem to me to be in the Catholic Church's interest to encourage every Catholic getting married in the state to have a covenant marriage certificate because it comes much closer as a legal document to the ideal the Catholic church espouses. The Baptist of the state did not endorse covenant marriage law until about November or December, four or five months after the thing was passed. The National Southern Baptist Convention endorsed it again in Utah at their annual convention there which is good, and that might help get the law passed in other states. Assemblies of God have endorsed it, but the Methodist have opposed it and the Episcopalians have opposed it. They say that we don't want the state telling the church what to do with regard to marriages. Well, if the state had said something foolish, it would be one thing, but to try to say that you want to preserve marriages, presumably that is in the Methodist's interest and the Episcopalian's interests. I don't understand what the matter with these churches in Louisiana.

I want to tell you about a new law that was passed in Florida and some of you have heard about it. It is also important because it gives us another kind of benchmark, another kind of model for what might be passed in your states. Some of you heard Elaine Blume when you were in the plenary section when she described this law. She was pushed into courage to pursue this by a man who is a real estate developer and owner of a car lot or something like that who read my book. He got excited about it and went to her and that was one of the reason that helped get that through, so I am kind of pleased about that. He wrote a letter to me and said, "this is your law." It's not my law - it's their law.

In any case, what is says is four things. 1. It actually mandates high school students to take a course in marriages. We heard from two students in the first plenary section (those of you who were here) who took a similar course in Philadelphia. They said, "I really learned how to communicate in this course and I learned to stop using "you" statements and learned to say "I" statements. I found it very effective in talking to my parents, my teachers and talking to people at work, not just with people of the opposite sex." So their communication skills were improved. Presumably, if that is the kind of thing that is going to be taught in Florida schools, this is going to be good for everybody.

2. The law gives a thirty dollar reduction in the price of a marriage license if you take four hours of premarital preparation. That should be enough of a "kick in the pants" to the churches who do not do marriage preparation to start doing it. They can now register at St. Timothy's Catholic Church or First Baptist Church, or whatever the name of the church, their program with the local county. People coming to get married in that county can decide whether they are going to pay a counselor for four hours of marriage preparation or are they going to go for free to First Baptist. I presume this might encourage some people to go to churches to get marriage preparation and would not be getting it otherwise; not just because of the thirty dollar encouragement, although that is something, but there is a bias here from the state to say that we think marriage preparation is important. Even though it is not required in the law, it is encouraged and that is a healthy thing.

3. The fourth element of it that seems to be healthy is that the state has asked the Bar Association to draft a pamphlet that describes the legal consequences of marriage and divorce. For example, if a person has custody of children, do they have the right to move out of the state, away from the other partner of the marriage. The answer is no, you don't in Florida. It is useful to have that kind of information available to the average citizen which has not been generally available, and make it available during the time of marriage preparation. The people giving the marriage licenses will ask, "Did you read that pamphlet?" Obviously, people could lie about it, but again, it is an encouragement to become better informed and it seems that on the whole that is healthy.

4. There is a new statement that if a couple is getting divorced and they have children, they not only have to take a parenting class, but they have to take parenting in a class which trains in communication and conflict resolution. Furthermore, it has to be begun within 30 days of the filing of the divorce petition and not at the end of the time when the divorce is final. Hopefully, that is going to encourage some couples to realize that maybe we can improve our communication and save this marriage. It would be easier to make the marriage work than try to make the divorce work for children. Hopefully, that will cut the divorce rate.

Those are the four things that I think are useful. But I have to say that my conclusion in general is that the law can only work at the margins of this issue. I think the greatest gains in terms of saving marriages is going to come through the church sector which takes marriages more seriously than it has in the past. My evidence for that is that it at least in the 16 cities where we have data, looking at the number of divorces before a community marriage policy was adopted that my organization works with, and looking at the results up to 11 years later, the divorce rate in 16 out of 18 cities where we have checked have come down. They are up in two states but down in the rest. They are down dramatically as much as 10 times the drop of the number of divorces in the country as a whole. For example, in New Castle, Indiana the divorces were down 9 percent in the first year. Nationally, divorce is only down 1.6 percent in 11 years. New Castle, Indiana, by adopting a community marriage policy, has pushed the divorced rate down in one year's time, six times the nation drop in one-eleventh of the time. That's 66 times better than the national average. That is statistically significant. I doubt you are going to see numbers like that as a result of any of either the Florida law or the Louisiana law. So, we need to change the law and we need to make the law more equitable. We need to level the playing field so that people who are getting married or getting divorced have a more equitable arrangement than is now possible in most states. I would like to propose a new idea of what we might try to seek in the law, and that is this: Phyllis Richards sitting here in the second row has been an advocate of this for some years. Here is how it would work. If you want a divorce from your spouse, you can get one, but you are going to pay a price for it. The price would be in the splitting of the property settlement and in who has custody of the children. We could pass a law that says if you want a divorce and you're going to back out of your marriage, then you don't 50 percent of the value of the house. You maybe get 75 (??) percent or less, and at fault (?) is proven to have zero. That would make a lot of people work at their marriage rather than try to dump a spouse for someone younger. That may be a harder law to pass, but one of the advantages of the laws that are already beginning to move through is that you begin to think about what is the new generation law we would like to see. This would not be a reform of no-fault divorce, but you would have to pay an economic penalty should you unilaterally decide to break this particular marriage. That would be my suggestion for what ought to do in the next few years, in addition to trying to pass covenant marriage laws and the Florida kind of thing. I'm surprised that the covenant marriage law is even controversial. I am surprised there aren't more state that have passed it. All we are trying to do is give people a choice.

I debated with the ACLU about this on MS-NBC. They hooked me up with this lady in Louisiana who was opposed to this and, as I remember it, she was the only organization that opposed it in Louisiana. She said, this is forcing right-wing Christianity's morals on the public. I said, "wait a minute, no one is forcing anybody to do anything; this is giving people a choice to choose a high octane marriage or to choose a low octane marriage. I thought the ACLU was interested in choice and interested in freedom. You're saying you want to deny the freedom of some people to choose a higher octane marriage. You are opposed to freedom!" I didn't really think she answered the charge in an effective way. At any rate, there are lawyers who oppose this in Arizona and some other people such as battered women's groups said this is going to be terrible. But at least it got through in Arizona. I think we are going to see more states pass the covenant marriage law. It is very important that there be a coalition of religious leadership in the state to help formulate what that law is and have a voice in it. That was one thing that was not done in Louisiana and it is one of the reasons that the churches have been anywhere from lackadaisical to hostile about the support of the Louisiana initiative. That is my ten-minute overview.

COMMENTS BY SCOTT STANLEY University of Denver Author: The Heart of Commitment

I am Scott Stanley. I want to make a number of comments, so I won't be as brief as I think I'm going to be. I want to preference my comments by saying a little about who I am so that are comments are understood well. I am much more hanging around the academic side of things. I am a social conservative and a conservative Christian, but I am also, as Mike and David know well, coming from this side of some of this issues. I have also raised a lot of concerns about the different kinds of legislation that can be enacted and some of the unintended consequences that I think can happen if the laws are not very carefully conceived. In fact, we had a very nice discussion in this conference last year when we discussed these matters. I am delighted to start with the fact that the law, for example, in Louisiana is a very nice example of addressing most of the kinds of concerns that I was raising at that time.

SIDE B OF THE TAPE

Here's what I think those behind the laws could watch out for. Here is where the academics are going to hit you hard later. Here are the kind of questions that are going to be asked and the kind of data that people are going to want to see. I just want to say that, but recognize up front, coming from somebody who is very friendly to the movement. I want to use my background. I want to use my background as a researcher to say, "here are the issues that are going to be raised." Overall, I am very encouraged and I think there is good news here. One of the things that I think is the best is news in all of what is going on is that while the media may not be doing it to some degree (and they are in some degree) these kinds of things, this sort of meeting, these kinds of legal changes. these kinds of discussions would not have been happening a few years ago. There is something going on in this country and whether the media wants to recognize it at this point, that's is all our business, but maybe we could put some of them out of business! There is something going on. These kinds of meetings and discussions, if nothing else, and I think they do much more than nothing else, this discussion is happening. People are interested in what is going on and it is good to see these things happening, whether there those discussions are in state legislatures or CNN or MS-NBC or even the ACLU.

Now, having said that, here are some of the kinds of concerns and issues that I think are raised, at least how I would articulate them. For example, in the changes to raise the barriers to get out of marriage, I am mostly personally sympathetic to those kinds of changes. However, the concern could be expressed this way and those of you that heard my plenary this morning, I'll use my terminology in terms of commitment theory. What that does, those changes will raise constraint; they don't necessary raise dedication. The concern is that we can get more people staying together, but can we get more good marriages. That is really the goal. You have the least division on the goal of having more good marriages in this country. However, you can get some pretty good division on that one too, depending on who you like to talk to, or don't like to talk to. That is the concern. Does increasing constraint commitment do much for dedication. I want to tell you theoretically there is evidence that it will do something for dedication. There is some evidence that greater constraint ultimately can leak back toward increased dedication in much the way that I think you articulated, Katherine, in your talking that there is this sense that when somebody has really committed themselves to a path, there are a little more deliberate and careful about their decisions when they get in trouble. Carol Russbult's research has some very nice data on this and I will use an illustration that I got from Pat Love yesterday. She used my computer to give her PowerPoint presentation this morning, so I was showing her the buttons on computer - sort of a new thing for her. I said, "well here is the button to go forward and here's the one to go back." She said, "No, I don't want the backward button, I'm only going forward." I said, "Well that what we try to teach couples in PREP to keep going forward and don't go back." She said it reminded her of the time she was moving across the country and packed up all her belongings and had a U-Haul truck with one of those trailers which was pulling her Ford Pinto behind it. The guys said to her, "you're going to be fine, you can do this. But there is one thing, you cannot back. It will ruin the gears in your pinto if you back up." So she had to get across the country thinking very carefully, "I can only go forward." When you can only go forward and you cannot back up, you park very carefully. You think very carefully about what street you turn down. There are some roads you don't go down because you have to back up to get out. There is this sense that when there is increased constraint, maybe there is some increased deliberateness of the choices that are made. I think there would be some effect there.

COMMENTS BY ______________________________ Does academics say that, the relationship between strength and dedication? Are there studies?

COMMENTS BY SCOTT STANLEY

There is not a lot of data on this, but Carol Russbult, in particular, has some data that shows that people perceive their alternatives to be poorer to the relationship, when times get tough, they are more likely to make more constructive choices. There is a sense that this is the boat I'm in, I might as well quite shooting holes in the bottom of it. I do want to suggest though, I think that is not a huge link. There is a linkage there between constraint being converted back into dedication in my terminology, but the preferred thing is to help people get more dedicated to begin with and to stay there. I don't think anybody can reasonably argue with that. Of course, the biggest concern about the no-fault and changing that is that John Gottman expressed the prevailing dominant view in academia at this point that kids do better off in marriages that split up if the couples are not going to learn how to quit handling conflict poorly. I am not sure it is quite as clear as some of those people say, by the way. I think psychologists look at one part of the literature and sociologist look at a different part of literature and you get a different answer in those different literatures, in my viewpoint. I am just raising the complexities here. I am not trying to sort of push one way or another, although I will tell you where I do want to push in some ways.

Another area of interest, and David and Mike you know me well about this, I have had a great concern all along as a Christian, not as a researcher, about the non choice-oriented mandated forms of the government doing something in terms of premarital counseling. I will tell you what my concern it and then I want to wrap it back to the choice part. Again, what I like about the Louisiana law is that it has the choice stuff in there and took away a whole lot of concerns and criticisms. I will still raise this one though and it is this way. This is more as a religious person raising this concern. You have heard me say before that I think the mental health movement in this country did more to take the power away from the church to intervene and help people in their daily lives than any single thing that has ever happened. I am a psychologist and in some ways I am part of the mental health movement. I don't want to knock the whole mental health movement. Let me tell you where I think the church lost the power and the moral authority in people's lives. As the mental health movement grew, states began regulating it. When states start to make law, the regulations will then be enacted by bureaucrats at some level. Bureaucrats in many government positions tend not to be, on average, necessarily that conservative in their enactment of the laws of their friendliness toward perhaps sort of religious positions, for example. A lot of the mental health laws, frankly, have intimidated the heck out of clergy about intervening in things that just would have naturally done before in the lives of people. People will come to clergy way sooner. There is clear date on this kind of thing. They will come to a clergy member far before they are going to come to a psychologist or a mental health person or that kind of thing. But as these laws governing the practice of mental health took affect, the boards under those laws that implement the laws, start developing regulations about who can do counseling and who cannot. You have a lot of clergy now very scared to do just basic kinds of counseling activities with people that they used feel very comfortable to intervene. One of things that I really like that you said, and I want to use your words, "inviting the church back in." There are a lot of things the church or synagogues and the religious community has been kicked out of where they used to have preeminent influence. My fear with the total mandating approach - and I'm glad to say that I don't hear any states doing this - but I had a great fear about this a year ago that some states would, is that in mandating premarital counseling without choice or without an incentive model. Either one sounds better to me. Florida has gone the incentive route and Louisiana has gone the choice route. Either one helps get around this. But if a state just says you will do this, and then what they are going to do is, they are going to regulate it. Once those boards some together regulating it, they will be deciding what is in premarital education, who does the premarital education and who is qualified to do it. Let me tell you - again, I am a therapist and I'm a psychologist so this could sound a little negative about mental health - there are a lot of people in mental health because of managed care that are looking for things to do. The mental health movement is going to really jump on trying to be the one in the preeminent position to do the premarital counseling in these states. I just guarantee you that and I think that is what is happening in Florida. What happens or what my fear is, and it could be a fear either with the incentive or the choice laws even, but I am much less concerned about it with those laws is that we will do another giveaway essentially of a whole area of moral authority from the church to the state. The state will be regulating and the church will be kicked out again in some area the religious organizations, churches and synagogues had been preeminent.

QUESTION from DAVID BLANKENHORN

Does that concern relate also to the part of the Florida law that tells the 9th and 10th grade students to study this in school?

Well, you know where the fun part of that begins is what is in the curricula. I mean, who can't see that one coming.

QUESTION/COMMENTS SCOTT STANLEY

That seems to me to be the apropos point.

That's okay, we all agree on this, now what goes in that. We heard the train coming. So, I am concerned about that. I am not as concerned in the choice laws and the incentive laws, but I am still concerned about that because at some point if it turns into a regulatory agency saying what should be in these programs or that kind of thing, I guarantee you that the religious organizations lose on that equation once the government marches down that path. Government does not give up a lot once it takes it. Maybe that was a little overly conservative.

If you research these kinds of points - - and then I will sit down. This is more pure, sort of scientific kinds of concerns and these are the sort of questions that I think will be asked later. One of the things I love about the Louisiana law - - Glen Stanton and I had a nice long phone call (and he cannot be here with us today) but I think the day this was passed he called me up and we had a really great talk about. We shared some perspectives on a number of things and he and I see eye-to-eye on just many things. Here are some of the kinds of things that I think need to be looked out for carefully. What I love about it is that they are doing it. Now we can watch and see what happens. I love it that NIH is going to fund some study of it. But here are some of the things that people are going to what to know really carefully what happens. This gets into the category of unintended consequences. In any state that starts to make it even more difficult to either get into marriage or get out marriage or both, will we probably, I think, see a lower divorce rate, but will we also see a lower marriage rate? The marriage rate, of course, already going down, but will it be accelerated in the states that make the barriers higher to get in and out. I am not even sure yet and I wasn't sure a year ago, whether that is good or bad. I can sort of see it either way. it is an interesting to watch for statistically.

COMMENTS from MIKE MCMANUS

I can tell you that in one of the counties which has adopted a community marriage policy where it was organized by a judge - - where a community marriage policy was adopted in Adrian, Michigan under the leadership of Judge Jim Sheridan and he got all of the judges to agree and all those who do civil marriages, mayors and so on, to agree that if you want to be married with a civil marriage in that state, you have to take a premarital inventory and be trained in communication and conflict resolution. There has been a drop in the marriage rate in the county - a fairly substantial drop, maybe 25 percent. One of those who got married in a neighboring county was before the judge about a month ago. He was before the judge for having beaten up his wife. The judge said to him, "now, I noticed you got married in Toledo, why did you do that. Was it because we have this requirement that you have to take marriage preparation." He said, "yes, your honor." The judge said, "let see now, I am going to fine you a thousand dollar for beating up your wife and you are going to be in jail for a week, then you are going to have to do 130 hours of community service. So if you had gone to that marriage class you might have learned how to control your anger in a more effective way. What do you think would have been the better choice." He said, "well, I guess I shot myself in my foot, your honor."

COMMENTS from SCOTT STANLEY

And a lot of other places! I will just make a few more comments and then I will sit down as well and we will see where the discussion goes. The most interesting data to me to track in Louisiana, for example, is not - - again this is the researcher side of me (otherwise I am very sympathetic to this law). I am not really interested in the data about the different divorce rate in the covenant marriages and the marriage light marriages, the reason being they have such a total selection effect. I know what that data is going to be. I guarantee you the divorce rate will be dramatically lower for the covenant marriages. It has got to be because you are basically having more committed people who are going to select that in the first place. What the really interesting data is - - What's the divorce rate for the whole state going to be. This the area where I am most excited about all of these trends in society. We have to get marriage on the table as something to discuss and beyond the discussion, something to lift up and restore some honor to in the country, because without the institution receiving a greater sense of value.....by the way, I think some of the preeminent value of some of the legal changes that are possible is in the broader message to society, saying we value marriage. Marriage is not valued in our culture at this point and the value of something, as Gary said last night, is very much related to the motivation to do certain things within it. So, if we cannot lift up the institution in some ways, nothing else that we do or that anybody conceives or argues about in the movement, I think, will have much effect.

I will just close with one quick anecdote. Colorado changed its law and it has not gotten as much attention for the good thing done in Colorado. It changed its law some time ago where now you can get married in Colorado without even having anybody officiate. We are going the other way. In Colorado you can now go to the government agency. There is no official, no justice of the peace and no clergy. You fill out the form and then you turn it in and you are married. I must say, there is a rather beautiful ceremony connected with this law because it does say specifically in the law that you have to fill out the form and then step back from the counter, and then bring the form back! It's a beautiful thing to see! We're heading the other way.

COMMENTS by DAVID BLANKENHORN

In New Jersey a couple of weeks ago, they just passed legislation lowering the waiting period for a unilateral, no-fault divorce from 18 months to six months on the theory that 18 months was just too long. I think the divorce rate, it seems to me, is likely to go up if that becomes law. These are three terrific leaders and intellects. Most of you know these people, but really, I think we should thank them again...not only for their presentations but for the work, really first rate. A lot of good stuff is on the table. I think the drill is to go to the mic and address your, hopefully, questions, maybe a comment or two will slip in.

COMMENTS by FRANK WILLIAMS:

Hopefully, comments are allowed! I am Frank Williams. Just a little bit about my background. I just retired after 20 years of being on the faculty at the University in Family Studies. I am a United Methodist minister by background, having been in the church for 15 years and then remaining active after that. Now I am Education Training Director for a counseling agency in Tucson.

It was interesting, partly because the covenant marriage law was turned down three times this last year before it got passed by a kind of round about way. We need to understand that the round about way was that it was added to a bill that needed to go through. It was one of those undermining things. I was very strongly in opposition to it, so you need to know where I come from a social liberal and not a social conservative, and as a Methodist liberal and not a Methodist conservative. I have a lot of questions about it and I think there is not anything wrong with that. I happen to agree with the Florida law and appreciate it. I happen to have been one who for years in Arizona sought to get a family life education bill passed so that education could be taught in schools. It was opposed by the conservatives over those five years and strongly voted down again and again, mainly because they did not like what it might be. We had no idea about what it would be, but what it might be - the fear of sex education basically. The fear that I have around a lot of it was that we were undermining the real possibility of education that could be done. By the way, there are those of us who have already begun the process of trying to get it repealed next year and we will see. You can talk to me afterwards if you wish to on that.

One of the questions I have - and Scott, this is partly for you, because I am an academic and have done the training and work in academia as well as on the front lines, is in relationship to cohabitation. What I discover is that as we have made marriage more difficult and divorce more difficult too, that we have also found that there has been a rise, at least in some places, in cohabitation. I know and you know that cohabitation is not any more steady, in fact, it has more difficulties. People who cohabit are more likely to get divorced than those who get married. I am strong proponent of marriage - don't get me wrong. I also know and fear what might happen in terms of people living together and cohabitation and without the benefit of marriage and without the benefit of any kind of legal arrange, without the benefit of any protection for children which come out of that experience as well. We are seeing a rise, at least in Arizona, of none (and I think we have the distinction of being one of the higher states) of having a higher rate of births to unmarried parents of any other state in the country. I fear that. I think my fear is that as we make marriage more difficult, as we make it harder to get into marriage, that we are going to see a higher rate of cohabitation and a higher rate of people living together and a higher rate of children coming from the experience. That is a question.

COMMENTS BY DAVID BLANKENHORN Okay, let's get a couple on the table and then we can go down and respond.

DON BROWNING: Co-Author: From Culture Wars to Common Ground : Religion and the American Family Debate

I am Don Browning. Over the last six or seven years I have been conducting the religion, culture and family project at the University of Chicago which was speeded up a chance to kind of re-avail for myself, and I hope other people, a good deal of the history of western thought with regard to religion and family and law and other matters. Let me just say this. I am going to make a plug. I don't think that anybody ought to go further with this discussion about the relationship between the church and the state with regard to marriage and divorce without reading John Witte's From Sacrament To Contract. The subtitle is "Marriage and Law in the Western Tradition." Now that book states the issue of the relationship to church and state with regard to marriage and divorce. Here are a couple of things that come out in that book. From one perspective from the standpoint of the reformation, one of the greatest accomplishments that occurred was the giving of marriage to the state. Interestingly enough, there is a covenant theology that applied only to marriage, but the covenant theology applied to the state. The state has a covenant and a covenant stake in marriage. Now that sounds like a weird idea today. That is because we have seen, in the meantime, what is called the secularization of the secular. The secular realms was not in a completely secular realm during the reformation. It was just the left hand, the non-saving aspect of God's kingdom. The secular has been profoundly secularized and we know that. But from the standpoint of Christians, at last I think we can develop the hypothesis that the state has a stake in marriage and that Christians can say, "can we help the state fulfill its obligations." What happened in the reformation is that marriage became public, almost for the first time that it had in the West. Think of that accomplishment. It became active public responsibility when, during the period of time before the reformation, marriage was primarily under the control of the church. It sounds good! You had the phenomenon of secret or clandestine marriage, unwitnessed, non-public marriage. Basically, you could be married before the reformation in the Catholic period because if two people that were baptized had consent, you were married. Even the church didn't have to bless it. To make marriage public was an enormous accomplishment in the West. I see no way to actually do that thoroughly and completely without state involvement in some way or other.

So, I am saying, let's begin to think of creative ways for church - state partnerships. I think rightly conceived and rightly argued, those kinds of partnerships can be developed again. Once again, Katherine, your phrase, inviting the church back in was a very telling phrase. It is one thing to say it, it is another thing to accomplish it, and it is another thing to develop the theological and public philosophy of rhetorics that help people understand that. Historically, that is what we had in the West and we ought to try to find a way to do it again and to keep that church - state balance. That way you will have marriage fully accountable to special communities as well as a public good.

COMMENTS BY DAVID BLANKENHORN Don, you are very involved in the whole mental health world. What do you make of Scott Stanley's point.

COMMENTS BY DON BROWNING

Well, it is a very good point. It did happen and it does happen. We gave a lot of the authority of marriage away to the mental health community of the church - there is no doubt about that, especially to the mental health community because we have plenty of evidence. It is almost the most secular of all of the professions. But that can be critiqued. The secularity of the mental health professions is a poorly grounded reality. It is being critiqued now by a variety of people. It is a danger to be confronted and I would rather confront the danger than to be so fearful that state accountability would undermine the validity of the church that we would miss what has really been the genius of the western system since the reformation.

COMMENTS BY ____________________________________ The first man asked a question that hasn't been commented on.

MODERATOR: Do you want to talk about the cohabitation. The question was, "will making it harder to enter or leave marriage unintentionally drive up rates of cohabitation and thereby undermine the very goal that we achieve?"

COMMENTS BY SCOTT STANLEY

I think that is probably a good bet of an effect and it is one of the things that should be tracked, where we are looking at the effects of legal changes - the cohabitation rate. However, I would say in addition to that, I think that the cohabitation rate as it skyrockets is more profoundly an effect of a culture that no longer values marriage. Again, I would come back to where I ended, that if we get to a culture that raises the value of the institution of marriage and can get over the sense that by doing that we are somehow putting down everybody else. It is okay to not put somebody else down and say this is preferred or this is better society - at least it seems to me that should be okay. So, I think that is crucial. One little tidbit I'll say, by the say. There is some suggestion of the polling data that Howard and I have that if there is such a thing as the commitment-phobic male, where they mostly land is in the longterm cohabiting relationships. I think what really happens is that some of these women are unfortunate enough to talk some of these guys down to the altar and there you go. I mean, they don't do well. I am talking long-term cohabitation. COMMENTS BY (female)________________________

I'm interested in the Arizona comment because I followed all of that very well and Ara Elman is someone I know professionally. Of course, he wrote for the Phoenix newspaper. I am interested though, again, as I was at the ACLU, why anybody would be opposed to a choice that is offered to people. It is not being imposed on anyone.

The second thing is, I would agree totally with Scott. I cannot imagine that cohabitation would increase any more than they already have. The reason they have is because marriage means nothing. Marriage is about the most fragile, poorly-treated relationship we have in law, so what is the point of marriage. If anything, I would think that a voluntary optional choice you would have with a covenant marriage would, if we publicize it at least, then restore some notion of marriage as this incredibly unique institution for rearing of children and in that way, even if there are small barriers - and I would call them road bumps, not barriers to marriage. If you are talking even about a four-hour mandatory premarital counseling, that it does restore marriage to a very unique position. I cannot imagine that it would be any worse than it is now.

COMMENTS BY SCOTT STANLEY

Just a real brief comment, as long the mic is here. One of the things that I think would be interesting to see if it would happen........the part of me that thinks the marriage rate lowering in this context may not be bad is, if there were more marriages that a higher percentage were actually doing well, even in the context of fewer marriages, it may in and of itself have some element of rehabilitating the image of the institution. I don't know how it would work, but it is an interesting thought to me.

COMMENTS BY MIKE MCMANUS

I think we all bear some responsibility for the cohabitation rate as it is, because we have not been articulate about the consequences of it. I mean, I cannot remember, and I prescribe to Time, Newsweek and US News, New York Times, Washington Post and Washington Times. I cannot remember a story, other than the ones I have written, indicating that cohabitation is deleterious to marriage. (Wade Horn did a piece too). What I am saying is, there is not much being published about this and we have a responsibility to talk about that - those of us who know something about the data - to the reporters we have access to, to make a case for marriage and to say that cohabitation as a trial marriage is a disastrous way to trial it. Yet, we have a ninefold increase in cohabitation rates since 1960 and it is time to stand up against it.

COMMENTS BY__________________________________

I would also quickly say, there are examples of institutions where raising the entry requirements and increasing the level of discipline and commitment that is required, actually increases the desire of people to participate in it. Anybody who has looked at church history over the last several generations will see that the churches that make the most demands are the ones that are getting the most new participants, so I don't think its axiomatic that making something a lot easier to enter into and leave necessarily makes it more attractive. Sometimes exactly the opposite can be the case. I don't think that settles the question, but I just don't think we should make an assumption about that.

COMMENTS BY: DAVE POPENOE of Rutgers University. Co-Author: Promises to Keep: Decline and Renewal of Marriage in America

Just a little bit more on the cohabitation angle. If you look over the last 50 years, there hasn't been a single situation that I know of where marriage has been made more difficult or divorce has been made more difficult, until what we are hearing today. Yet, the cohabitation rate has gone from virtually zero to 95 percent in Scandinavia, 50 to 60 percent in the United States and various inbetween figures in the rest of Europe, like 70 to 80 percent in most of those countries. If you look at the different countries and see where cohabitation is important and where it is less important, the big factor is, what has happened to marriage. So, if you go to Scandinavia, there is virtually no benefit today from being married. The institution has been downgraded and the cohabitation rate is 95% for everybody going into a marriage. By the way, 25 percent of all couples in a place like Sweden, are now living outside of marriage and that is at all ages. In other words, cohabitation there has gradually taken on the character of an alternative institution to marriage and that, I fear, is what is going to happen in the United States.

COMMENTS BY ?

Marriage becomes more and more an institution that resembles cohabitation.

COMMENTS BY: DAVE POPENOE continue:

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the way to beat cohabitation is to strengthen marriage, to privilege marriage, to give it more benefits.

Finally, let me say that Barbara and I are currently at work on a major paper on cohabitation. Mike will be happy to hear this, we are going to get it out to the public and you will be surprised at what is in there!

COMMENTS BY ________________________________________: You once took the opposite stand on the matter.

COMMENTS BY: RON DIEHL:

I am from Jonesboro, Arkansas. I am a Family Life minister as well as a marriage and family therapist. I am working with some people in Arkansas to look at legislation, divorce reform and marriage reform. We have been looking at the Florida law especially. We have been talking some about the choice that the Louisiana and Arizona laws give. I am wondering about more comments on incentives. Number one, how much incentive do you think people need to choose a higher road, if you will? Number two, the Florida law as we are looking at it requires four hours of premarital counseling. As somebody who does a lot of premarital counseling and training of premarital counselors, as well as marital therapy, my suggestion to our group has been, "that isn't enough." I struggle with the - what you do as a minimum to make it inviting for people, versus what is really practical and what is really going to be helpful for them. I just wondered if any of you would have any comments on either of these thoughts.

COMMENTS BY MIKE MCMANUS

I'll take one. In our church, we require that they attend 11 classes of an hour apiece, that they meet with mentoring couples five times in their homes which takes 10 to 15 hours. They also have to fill out a workbook. The more rigorous the process is, the more likely it is that the weak relationships will break apart on their own and the rest will be strengthened to go the distance. Four hours is too little.

COMMENTS BY SCOTT STANLEY

I agree on the four hours comment. I do think, just to frame this as a general comment that comes back to several things, I think the real heart of the battle ultimately comes back to the public discourse, the value and meaning of things. Whatever else the effects and the wrangling about the different effects of policy decisions, I ultimately think we are going to get the most couples interested if they understand most dramatically the benefits of doing some of these things. When people start out their marriage, some of them just are thinking - I guess I'll just leave that sentence where it lies. But, most of them want to make it work. A lot of them don't know or they are not nudged to do some of the things that can help them. Getting that marriage out more and more, I think, is a really crucial thing so that couples do have an internal investment and incentive to say, "you know, we should do this. We want to give our marriage the best shot possible." Unfortunately, I think so many couples getting married today have this sense of pessimism going in that nothing matters. Let's just see if we luck out here or not in the big crap shoot. Okay, here we go! Or, we don't have any problems.

COMMENTS BY Phyllis Whicher?

Two small questions for Stan. I was a NICHD the first conference, actually federal government conference on marriage the other day, and they did go over a lot of the data. There conclusion was on this cohabitation thing that a lot of people were concerned or interested as to whether we were going the direction of Sweden. So far, it looks as if it is not in America. Rates are higher, but it is still a transitional stage, either to marriage or to breaking up. So, I just thought put that on the table. The question mentioned at the conference and I've heard it said often that these studies that show the negative effects on marriage, i.e., the higher divorce rates of people who cohabit, isn't that a self-selection factor? Could you comment on that?

COMMENTS BY SCOTT STANLEY

Howard and I, for example, would think that the biggest part of that is a selection effect. The data is very clear. Dave Popenoe, check with me on our polling data if you don't have it. The couples that are choosing to cohabitate are the less religious, the less traditional views of marriage in the first place. Of course, those people are more likely also to choose divorce if the marriage gets hard later. However, Mike, there is a paper that I sent you the abstract on, and I don't know if others have seen it. It came out in the fall, probably was in the "Journal of Marriage and Family". It was a brilliant and, I think, beautiful study, looking for the first time at whether there is actually a deleterious effect of the process of living together long-term on views about both marriage and child rearing. Longitudinal research, as far as I remember and nice methodology. They found that, in addition to speculating about the selection effect, people that have more aggregate experience living together prior to marriage, meaning with either various partners or just amount of time living together prior to marriage, they can track in longitudinal research the diminishment of their sense of an attitude that marriage is special or unique over time through the process of living together. Also, a diminishment in the sense that having children is anything worthy to do or valuable. It is fascinating research, because these are first researchers that went after this whole issue that there is something beyond just the selection effect that is fairly obvious going on here.

COMMENTS BY female (not using mike)___________________

COMMENTS BY DAVID BLANKENHORN

The question was: What do I think state legislators need to hear in terms of persuasive talking points. I have testified, but I don't know that it has been that successful because the laws really haven't been changed in the places where I have been (Michigan, Pennsylvania and a few other places). I can answer it in a negative sense in that the two issues that seem to me to be just conversation stoppers are: (1) It is an imposition of one value on everybody. That was the genius of Katherine Spaht's movement and Tony Perkins in Louisiana. It took that away, unless you just want to insert it anyway, irrespective of the facts. You know, it is an imposition. The real thing that just stopped the debate cold is, this will lead to domestic violence against women. That is the beginning, middle and end of what needs...... I think the driving issue is the issue of domestic violence. The third thing that is said is, it doesn't matter. The divorce laws, my goodness, here in Kansas, we have looked into this and changing the divorce laws would have no effect because smart people have all concluded that the law has on influence on this matter. In Pennsylvania, for example, in your state, that was their principle reason for doing nothing. They said, well, you could do it, but it would have no effect on anything. The people who have gone in - me and other people in this room, more than I have and with more knowledge than I have, have tried to make arguments to say, you know, to put some different ideas on the table, but the few instances, Louisiana, Florida, a couple of other places, they haven't been successful. I'll stop here. The underlying reason I think they have not been successful is that public opinion does not favor substantially moving away from no-fault divorce on demand. If you ask people in public opinion polls, "Do you thin the divorce rate is too high." Everybody says, "Absolutely, way to high!" "Do you think that our current divorce rate is harmful to children and society." Yes, yes, yes - 80 percent agree. Third question: Is there anything under heaven, anything you favor that would restrict the unilateral right to divorce. Answer: No." I am looking at the state polls in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania did one. Everywhere they tried these out, they do these polls. This is where public opinion is on this. A lot of genuine anxiety over the effects of the divorce culture. But, a strong unwillingness to restrict what people have come to view as a right to leave a marriage when I want to, for any reason I want to - immediately. This is viewed as a right and to restrict that right is not supported by most Americans. Therefore, the task that I think falls upon the Mike McManuses and Scott Stanleys of the world and all of you and me, is to try to persuade our fellow citizens that there is a different way of seeing this question. Because right now the views that I hold on these matters and that you, Phyllis hold, are not majority opinions and we have a job of persuasion.

COMMENTS BY __________________________________ The young people favor more restrictive divorce than old people, I'm sure.

COMMENTS BY _______________________________________ Thank you very much. It's time to move to the next sessions. There are 15 minutes.

COMMENTS BY ________________________________________ Very quickly, Mayor Hardiman, do you want to say something, then we will wrap it up.

COMMENTS BY MAYOR HARDIMAN

Thank you very much. I am chair of the Greater Grand Rapids Steering Committee for the community marriage policy. A few moments ago a good friend of mine talked about introducing a bill into the state legislature in Michigan, Harold Vorhes and I thought, oh goodness! people are going to call me and I didn't want them to. I talked with Ken Sykma who is the House Minority Leader. He sat down and said, Bill, we appreciate what you are doing. Is there anything we can do to help. I said, please don't try to codify anything that we are doing. Here's why. It is not that Louisiana law, and I think maybe the Florida law, would be even better, but it's not that those aren't helpful, it is that just what you said, David. People care so much about their rights that they don't want those "messed with" - if I can use that terminology. What we have been trying to do is go to coalition to strength marriage and not just with the right but with the left - - with everybody. I talked to some of my liberal friends. I said, here a marriage policy, will you support it. One of them said, well, you know it sounds great. I don't have any problem with it, but he felt uncomfortable - somethings wrong. I don't want to codify it. We are not trying to codify it. We want commitment because we think that is really the way to make the difference.

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