Promoting strong marriages is an “obvious” way to improve the health, education, public safety and economy in Oklahoma, Rep. Mark McCullough said Monday.
Joined at a news conference by ministers, social organizations and representatives with Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, the Sapulpa Republican said good government policy should address marriage and divorce and their impacts on families, children, poverty and crime.
The conference was held to kick off National Marriage Week, which continues through Feb. 14.
“We're not here to scold, we're not here to be a judge — we're here to say the more the family fails the more government has to get involved, and that's just the facts,” McCullough said.
McCullough is the author of House Bill 1548, which would not allow married couples to divorce on the grounds of incompatibility if there are minor children living in the home, if they have been married longer than 10 years or if either party objects.
The bill is one of seven filed by legislators this year that would make it more difficult to divorce. Senate Bill 105 would legalize “covenant” marriages, which would require counseling both before marriage and during divorce; Senate Bill 961 would require parents undergoing divorces to attend classes and receive information about divorce's adverse effects on children.
Clarence Hill Jr., executive director of Eye to Eye Marriage Enrichment Community, said the increasing failure of marriage in Oklahoma and nationwide constitutes a “crisis” of foster care and juvenile delinquency.
“We believe that the best way to cause government not to expand is by strengthening the family,” Hill said.
Marriage occurrences in Oklahoma, according to the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics, was 7.2 per 1,000 people in 2010, tied for 20th in the nation. The divorce rate was 5.2 per 1,000 people, tied for third.