Our first area of interest is the degree to which state officials publicly focus on marriage-related issues through statewide campaigns, commissions, and proclamations. (See Table 1 of the detailed matrices for specific state policies.) Nine states have undertaken an activity in this area. Three(2) of the nine have enacted or proposed more than one activity in this general topic area. For instance, the Utah Governor established a Commission on Marriage and signed a proclamation.
State campaigns. These include media projects that extol the virtue of marriage and larger-scale initiatives, such as a statewide effort to curb divorce rates. Campaigns have been undertaken or proposed in four states. Two states (Arkansas and Oklahoma) launched campaigns to reduce the state divorce rate by one-third or more. Additionally, Oklahoma’s initiative created a media campaign to highlight marriage-building skills. Two states (Arizona and New Mexico) proposed media campaigns to promote the societal benefits of marriage, but the bills ultimately failed.
Commissions. These included “summits” that bring together diverse groups to discuss marriage-strengthening policies and commissions charged with implementing specific policies. Five states have launched commissions.(3) Commission goals were diverse. Arizona established a commission to focus on a specific policy (encouraging community-based organizations to train married couples, or those contemplating marriage, in communication and relationship skills). Others were more general. The South Carolina Attorney General established a commission to develop policies to support marriage and the family. The Utah Governor and First Lady established a commission to focus attention on strengthening marriages and to gather information on best practices. In Louisiana, a council on marriage monitors, develops and evaluates policies and programs to ensure that the government dies not undermine marriage. Michigan proposed a legislative commission on marriage and fatherhood earlier this year.
Proclamations. Two states issued proclamations recognizing the importance of marriage as a public good (North Carolina, Utah) and one reaffirmed marriage’s special status as the foundation for healthy families (Louisiana). Additionally, Louisiana and Utah proclaimed National Marriage Day (2/14/99) and Marriage Awareness Week (9/15/99), respectively.
Exhibit 1: Overview of Selected Policy Areas
|State||Commissions, Campaigns, or Proclamations||Covenant Marriage||No-fault Modifications||Mandatory Divorce Education||Different Divorce Laws for Parents||Incentives for Marriage Preparation||Marriage Education for Adults||State Funding for Marriage Support||State Tax: No or Reduced Marriage Penalty(4)||Marriage Incentives, TANF||Marriage Support, Home Visitation||Marriage Support, Counseling||Marriage Support, Fatherhood Programs||School-Based Marriage Education||Abstinence-
BC = Bill or policy still under consideration
BNP = Bill or policy that did not pass (e.g., died in committee)
L = Law
X = Policy/program in place