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Experience in Louisiana

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Louisiana: Covenant Marriage Act:

Louisiana became the first state in the U.S. to make covenant marriages available in its territory.

House Bill 756, "Covenant Marriage Act," was the first piece of legislation in the U.S. concerning covenant marriages. 4 Rep. Tony Perkins (R-Baker) was the author. He now heads the Family Research Council, a Fundamentalist group based in Washington DC whose main activities are opposition to both abortion access and equal rights for gays and lesbians. The bill was passed by the state legislature on 1997-JUN-23, and was signed into law by Governor Mike foster on 1997-JUL-15. It took effect on 1997-AUG-15. 5,9

The bill requires:


Marriage licenses to have a statement of intent to be completed by one or both spouses that the "We, [name of intended husband] and [name of intended wife], do hereby declare our intent to contract a Covenant Marriage and, accordingly, have executed a declaration of intent attached hereto."


The couple to recite a declaration: "We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant 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 Covenant Marriage is for life. If we experience martial 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 Louisiana law on Covenant Marriages and we promise to love, honor, and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.


The couple to provide an affidavit that they have received appropriate pre-marital counseling


A notarized attestation by the counselor that the couple has been suitably counseled and provided with a pamphlet called "Covenant Marriage Act"


A divorce for a spouse in a covenant marriage may only be granted upon proof that the other spouse has:

Committed adultery, or


Been imprisoned for a felony, or


Abandoned the home for a year and "constantly refuses to return," or


Committed sexual or physical abuse on a spousal or child of one of the spouses.

An alternative ground is that they have lived separately without reconciliation, for 12, 18 or 24 months (depending upon circumstances).


A spouse in a covenant marriage can obtain a judgment of judicial separation if they have first obtained counseling and if:

The other spouse has committed adultery, or has been imprisoned for a felony, or has physically or sexually abused the spouse or a child of one of the spouses, or has left the home for one year and "constantly refuses to return," or


They have been living apart without reconciliation for 24 months, or,


The other spouse has rendered their living together insupportable due to habitual intemperance, excesses, cruel treatment, or outrages."

Already-married couples may designate their marriage to be a covenant marriage. They must recite a statement, provide an affidavit that they have received counseling, and provide a notarized attestation from the counselor that the couple has received counseling and a copy of the state pamphlet.

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Impact of Covenant Marriage in Louisiana:

In the three states that permit covenant marriages, the vast majority of couples still prefer to have "ordinary marriages" which provide for no-fault divorces. The first covenant marriage law was enacted in Louisiana in 1997-AUG. Initially, fewer than 1% of new marriages were covenants. This rose to an estimated 2.9% by mid-1998. 5

A Gallup Poll conducted in Louisiana between 1998-JUL and SEP -- about one year after the bill became law. The margin of error is 4.4 percentage points. Results:

bullet Only 43% of subjects recalled hearing about covenant marriages.
bullet Only 35% remembered the Louisiana law having been passed.
bullet Most were not aware that currently-married couples could convert their relationship to a covenant marriage.
bullet 25% said that it was too soon to tell if covenant marriages are a good idea
bullet 61% would have a positive reaction if their child chose a covenant marriage.
bullet 63% believe that covenant marriages will strengthen family life
bullet 59% believe that covenant marriages will last longer that regular marriages
bullet 58% believe that they will be better for children. 6,7

Judge Jules Edwards of the Lafayette District of Louisiana decided to refuse to marry couples who had chosen a conventional, contract marriage. However, he performs covenant marriages for free. He wrote: "I do not charge anything for this service. The celebration of a covenant marriage helps me fulfill my commitment to strengthen the family as an institution." 8

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The above material is general overview of covenant marriage. Do not base any personal decisions on them. First, read the actual laws in your state or consult a lawyer who is skilled in family law.

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Home > "Hot" topics > Marriage > Covenant marriage > here

Home > Religious info > Basic religious info > Religious practices > Marriage > Covenant > here

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  1. "Covenant Marriage Links," at Americans for Divorce Reform, at:
  2. "Senate Bill 1133," at:
  3. "House Bill 2039," at: You need software to read this file. It can be obtained free from:
  4. "New Louisiana Covenant Marriage Law," at: 
  5. "Opportuning virtue: Covenant Marriages, the Louisiana Experience, and Beyond," at:
  6. Kristie Rutherford, "Okla. considers covenant marriage," Focus on the Family, 2002-MAY-9, at:
  7. "Legislative Update," Oklahoma Family Policy Council, at:
  8. Kristie Rutherford, "Okla. Marriage Bill Killed: A bill designed to strengthen marriage in Oklahoma has died." Focus on the Family, 2002-JUN-5, at:
  9. Text of the Covenant Marriage Law is at:

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Copyright 2001 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-DEC-13
Latest update: 2006-AUG-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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