Heading to class before saying ‘I do’

Don’t cut into that wedding cake just yet.

For brides- and grooms-to-be in Colorado, a group is proposing a law that would couples to take classes before getting a marriage license.

The proposed law — Colorado Marriage Education Act — would require 10 hours of education classes for the first plunge. The requirement bumps up to 20 hours for a second marriage and 30 hours for couples who think the third time’s the charm.

The California-based group Kids Against Divorce needs 86,105 signatures by August for the proposal to make it on the November ballot. The group said they have plans to take the proposal to other states.

The classes would cover organization, money management, health issues and conflict resolution. A widow re-marrying would only be required to take 10 hours of classes, and the law would not apply to civil unions.

Also, the law would offer tax breaks for couples that continue to take marriage classes. The argument is that divorce costs taxpayers billions each year.

Students at SPU were skeptical of the proposed law.

“I highly doubt people are going to want to agree to that, especially young people and college kids,” junior Emily Olson said. “It should be a person’s choice to take classes or counseling.”

Freshman Renee Zografos thinks it’s important to learn how to make a marriage work but doesn’t think the state should require classes.

“Just having the option to take it would be good because a lot of people already do counseling on their own,” Zografos said.

Olson especially took issue with the requirement for widows to take classes.

“That’s just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Olson said. “That person has already been through marriage and knows what it’s like — good or bad. It’s like drivers’ [education] for marriage, and nobody likes drivers’ ed.”

Olson also found it offensive that people getting married a second or third time would be required to take more classes.

“It’s a very condescending thing to do,” Olson said. “They’re basically saying you failed the first time — you need even more work.”

Les and Leslie Parrott founded the Center for Relationship Development at SPU in 1991. They’ve also written several relationship books and lectured extensively on relationships and marriage.

In an e-mail interview, the Parrotts said premarital education is helpful, but also, legal requirements aren’t a surefire way to save a marriage.

“You can’t legislate love,” Les Parrott said. “But you can help the community love better through proven tools.”

Les Parrott said 76 percent of married couples wish they had premarital education, and 86 percent of Americans 18 and older believe couples should get premarital education.

“Couples who do not receive premarital education are more likely to see their problems as atypical and unsolvable,” Les Parrott said.

David Schel and Sharon Tekolian of Kids Against Divorce are leading the push to require premarital education.

“[The purpose of the law is to] better prepare individuals going into marriage to fulfill their new roles as spouses and potentially as parents, to furthermore protect children, given that marriage is the foundation of a family unit,” Schel and Tekolian said in a news statement.

This article was posted in the section News.