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House passes covenant marriage bill

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The House passed legislation Monday that would make divorce harder and require premarital counseling for couples who choose covenant marriage contracts.

The program, similar to one in effect on Louisiana, creates voluntary covenant marriages requiring counseling prior to marriage as well as counseling and an 18-month waiting period prior to divorce. Exceptions to the waiting period include adultery, one spouse being abusive to the other or the couple's children, abandonment by a spouse for one year or fraudulently entering into a marriage.

Supporters sat the measure is aimed at slowing Oklahoma's divorce rate. Oklahoma has 6.7 divorces per 1,000 residents per year, compared with a national rate of 4.6, according to a government study cited by the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.

A similar bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. The committee's chairman, Sen. Brad Henry, D-Shawnee, said the bill was an example of excessive government intrusion into the lives of private citizens.

The bill, House Bill 2641, passed 91-6 and now goes to the Senate for action.
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