Reps. Sally Kern, Mark McCullough advance pro-marriage bills

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 10-Feb-2010

Marriage Network Oklahoma held a state Capitol news conference on Tuesday (February 9) featuring two legislative champions of traditional marriage who described bills they are advancing to make marriages stronger in the Sooner State.

In an opening overview of challenges facing marriage, Michael Jestes, executive director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, pointed to a study conducted by the Georgia Family Council and the Institute for American Values which estimated that divorce and unmarried births cost taxpayers at least $430 million a year.

Pointing to the troubled economy and the focus on budget issues this year, Jestes told CapitolBeatOK that strong marriages are an essential element in economic growth. In the interaction with reporters, he described marriage as “more than a piece of paper. It is the best way to overcome poverty.” He pointed to evidence that girls from intact families learn better skills and habits to avoid pre-marital sex and unmarried motherhood.

Jestes also noted that happily married couples live longer and are more fulfilled in important ways.  “Yet, marriage is not always honored in the law and culture,” he said. “A stronger marriage culture will build families, children and culture.”

State Rep. Sally Kern, Oklahoma City Republican, made the case for House Bill 2279, her legislation to require mutual consent before “incompatibility” can be considered in divorces. Her measure would leave many grounds for divorce “untouched,” but would interpose a “cooling down” period, to avoid what she characterized as “hothead” 
trends that feed speedy divorce. Kern said that in many divorces, one party or the other wants to save the marriage but current provisions prevent him or her from slowing the process down.

State Rep. Mark McCullough of Sapulpa, also a Republican, said easy divorce in Oklahoma “goes against the culture and the heart of our state.” He has been involved in two notable interim studies which he says have made the case for better divorce prevention services and an audit of those services, the focus of his House Bill 2638. His House Bill 2634 would require premarital counseling. He praised Kern for questioning the culture of “no fault divorce,” saying the state needs “a conversation about family fragmentation and the cost of divorce.”

Rev. Clarence Hill of the Eye to Eye Community described practical activities his group had organized, culminating in an annual Sweetheart Ball. He supports practical training skills for coping with marital challenges and the covenant in the marriage relationship. Jack Myrick of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative reported 1,900 Oklahomans have taken advantage of OMI trainings.

The briefing was held during Marriage Week USA, February 7-14 to highlight legislation members of the network believe will support and uplift the institution of marriage, and encourage Oklahomans to sustain marriages for life.

Joining Jestes, the legislators and other speakers at the press conference were Bob Davis of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative and John Johnson of Oklahoma Family Policy Council.