SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah first lady Jacalyn Leavitt is working to revive a legislative proposal that would take $20 off the cost of getting a marriage license for couples who complete a premarital course covering topics like problem-solving and commitment.
Similar legislation failed to make it through the state Senate last year over concerns on local implementation and curriculum exemptions for religious organizations, the Deseret News reported .
The Utah Marriage Commission is making the push for the legislation, which Leavitt said has been adjusted to gain support from lawmakers. Leavitt serves as the honorary chairwoman of the advisory commission that operates as part of the state Department of Human Services.
Though language for the new bill has not been made public, Leavitt said the religious exemptions were removed after finding the mandated education topics were not contrary to what religious organizations already teach in related classes.
State Sen. Luz Escamilla said she voted against the previous version of the bill due to the religious exemption.
“If it’s going to have the stamp of approval of the state, everybody should be meeting the requirements,” Escamilla said.
With the exemption removed, the Democratic senator said the bill is something she could support.
County officials also voiced concerns over the earlier bill, citing the complications caused by the differing costs of marriages licenses and verification of premarital course completion. Leavitt said those concerns would not be issues under the new bill as counties would implement the new program after moving to the online license application system.
If the premarital education reduced the divorce rate by 10 percent over five years, it would likely save the state $9 million, Leavitt said, citing estimates from a Brigham Young University professor.
For couples who do not complete a course, the legislation would direct that extra $20 from the marriage license to fund other marriage education services operated by the commission, Leavitt said.
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com