Premarital counseling defeated

An attempt to require people to go through eight hours of premarital
counseling before tying the knot died in a House committee yesterday.

Del. Robert F. McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, had offered the bill as a way
to reduce Virginia's divorce rate among first-time married couples, which
he said is 51 percent.

"I think eight hours of investment in time is not too much to ask for a
lifelong commitment," said McDonnnell, a member of the House Health,
Welfare and Institutions committee, which took up the bill yesterday in its
first meeting of the session.

McDonnell said several other states require premarital counseling. The
committee killed the bill by a 14-8 vote.

"If we start down this road, we may have to require counseling before
intercourse, before having children," said Del. Robert D. Orrock Sr.,

"I agree with the intent, but I don't think this gets us there," said
Orrock, who said he and his wife had counseling before they married.

Legislators also questioned whether the bill would result in fewer divorces
or simply drive people to nearby states to get married or to simply live
together without being married.

"We would have migratory marriages once again," said Del. Harry R. Purkey,
R-Virginia Beach, referring to people going to other states.

In 1999, McDonnell introduced legislation that would recognize so-called
covenant marriages in which couples agreed to get premarital counseling and
recited and signed a commitment pledge. That legislation also failed.

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