By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) introduced a bill he is sponsoring in the Senate Judicial Committee on Wednesday giving couples the option for a different classification of marriage, SB270.
The Alabama Covenant Marriage Act provides that couples may enter into a covenant marriage where they agree to attend pre-marital counseling. If the couple feels as though the marriage is headed toward divorce they will not file a “no-fault” divorce but agree to pre-divorce marital counseling.
Williams said, “We are asking people if they choose to take the extra steps to protect their marriage.”
The law is based on a law in Louisiana that was passed in the late 90s. After a similar bill passed in Louisiana, a ceremony was held where hundreds of married couples transferred over to covenant marriages.
People who are already married can change their marital status to covenant.
“A COVENANT MARRIAGE
“We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant 22 between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for so long as they both may live. We have chosen each other carefully and disclosed to one another everything which could adversely affect the decision to enter into this marriage. We have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage. We have read the Covenant Marriage Act, and we understand that a ovenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.
“With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do hereby declare that our marriage will be bound by Alabama law on Covenant Marriage and we promise to love, honor, and care for one another as husband and wife for therest of our lives.”
Upon applying for a covenant marriage license, couples must submit an affidavit that they have received premarital counseling from a priest, minister, rabbi clergy of any religious sect, or a marriage counselor
A spouse to a covenant marriage may obtain a judgment of divorce only upon proof of adultery; the other spouse has been sentenced to death or imprisonment; physical, mental or sexual abuse; child abuse; extended separations; abandonment; or repeated refusal of the other spouse to attend marital counseling.
“The Covenant Marriage Act is designed to be pro-family. I think that families are the basic structure that our society is built on. And with the breakdown of the American family has been prolific in the last 30 to 40 years,” said Williams. “This bill is designed to ask people to take a deep breath and give thought to that marriage goes deeper than just making a decision. Literally we are asking folks to get pre-marital counseling, this is purely optional, and if they ever get to the point where they feel their marriage is breaking down where they are considering a divorce, we are asking them to do is to get pre-divorce counseling. This is purely elective and they have a right to choose or not choose.”
Williams intends to amend the bill to include felonies without sentencing based upon a question raised by Senator Jerry Fielding (D-Calhoun, Coosa, Elmore, Talladega).
Williams requested that the bill be carried over due to lack of quorum.