Few states have higher divorce rates than Alabama, and now state lawmakers are looking at a bill that some say would reduce the number of marriage breakups.
Senate Bill 270, also known as the "Alabama Covenant Marriage Act", is currently in committee awaiting a vote.
If approved, it would create a new covenant marriage license in Alabama that would require couples to attend pre-marital counseling, as well as re-enter counseling later on should the marriage become in danger of falling apart. The Covenant Marriage Act would also eliminate no-fault divorce for couples who sign on, limiting the grounds for divorce to circumstances such as adultery, physical abuse, and abandonment.
Proponents of the bill said the covenant license is one hundred percent voluntary, and would not replace the traditional marriage license already in place in Alabama. Some local pastors told WHNT News 19 that it would reduce Alabama's divorce rate, currently the fourth-highest in America. Only Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alaska have higher divorce rates.
"When marriages and families fall apart, so does everything else," said Wayne Benson, an associate pastor at The Rock Family Worship Center. "I absolutely know it [counseling] makes a difference...The fact is, we're in trouble in this nation, and in the state of Alabama we're in trouble. Unless we're being proactive in some way, I think we are going to continue to see a deterioration in our marriages and families."
Covenant marriage licenses are already on the books in Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona. Alabama is one of more than a dozen other states also studying the covenant option. As with Alabama's proposal, all of the covenant licenses currently in place in other states are completely voluntary.